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Apollo 11, 50 years later: Celebrating a giant leap

Eliot Kleinberg, The Palm Beach Post on

Published in News & Features

CAPE CANAVERAL -- Sure it was corny. Sure they were watching a recording a half century after the fact. The man saying the historic words has been dead nearly seven years. No one cared.

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

And people clapped.

On Saturday, at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, several dozen people attended a special celebration of the first landing on the moon 50 years ago. They paid for a buffet that included swag bags and commemorative pins and a piece of "the world's largest Moon Pie." And listened to "Clair de Lune" -- "Light of the Moon." Then they settled down to experience the sounds and images they probably had seen a thousand times, but not in this context.

They saw John Kennedy saying America needed to go to the moon and accomplish other things "not because they are easy, but because they are hard." They saw the launch. And animation of the long journey to the moon. And then a split-image of animation on the right, and on the left grainy film of a gray, pocked surface coming up fast. And Armstrong saying, "The Eagle has landed."

And legendary CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, rubbing his hands, and finding himself -- remarkably, considering his profession -- at a loss for words. He could blurt out only, "Oh, boy."


And then, that moment when, as the world's largest television audience had looked on, a remote camera strapped to the leg of the lunar lander showed a human in a bulky spacesuit work down the ladder.

"This has to be the proudest day of our lives," President Richard Nixon would say by phone from the Oval Office to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, standing on the moon.

"Because of what you have done," the president told them, "the heavens have become a part of Man's world."

Actually, seven hours had elapsed between the landing of the Eagle and the step on the moon. Mission Control and the astronauts first had to decide if everything that would get the lunar module back off the moon would work when needed.


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