Thursday, 18 July 2019 13:17

50 Years Later, Locals Remember Apollo 11

Photo of the live broadcast of Apollo 11. Photo by Michael L. Noonan.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the first spaceship to ever carry humans to the moon and back.

Since the first time, Americans have gone back on manned flights another six times. However, the first was by far the most famous, to the point that people still remember exactly where they were and

when the launch happened, and both museums and NASA itself continue to hold events in honor of the anniversary.

Robert Mills said that he was just a kid at the time and that he was with his younger brother and parents at a lakeside camp in the Adirondacks, technically a friend’s lake. They had a nine-inch black and white television with rabbit ears and “tough reception.”

Mills said that even at the time, he understood the importance of what was going on. When the astronauts stepped out of the lander, “’They did it’ were my father’s words... Funny how I can recall the specific nature of that one single second in life all these years later.”

Mary Ann Fitzgerald, city historian for Saratoga, said that she was a bit preoccupied during Apollo 11 for two reasons. First, her mother-in-law’s birthday was on July 21, the same day the astronauts touched down on the Moon, so her husband’s mother and grandmother had also joined the group. Second, she was a stay-at-home mom and her kids were still very young. As a result, the family just stayed at home and watched the broadcast.

“So it’s all about having the barbecue cooking in the backyard and coming out onto the back porch and eating and then having birthday cake,” she said. “And of course, we have the black and white TV on the porch, and we watched that whole thing together.”

She clarified, “That’s four generations! That’s my babies, and then my husband and I, then my husband’s mother and my husband’s grandmother. So we watched, four generations together.”

Charles Kuenzel, who gives tours at the Saratoga History Museum, had a somewhat similar experience. He said that he was young at the time, but still moved to follow the Mercury and Gemini programs. During high school, a lot of students, himself included, built mock ups of the capsules.

“When Apollo 11 landed I was working at the Peerless Pool at the Spa State Park and I was 17,” he said. “When the LEM landed on the moon it was broadcast on the PA over the pool area to make people aware of this great event. Later that night a very tired young man struggled to watch the live broadcast from the moon on our TV in our house in Saratoga. It was wonderful. I think everyone understood the importance of the event and the history that was being made at that time.”

Kuenzel continued by saying how the landings changed his life, causing him to decide to become a science teacher at Saratoga High School later.

In 2019, events are continuing to come out in recognition of the historic moments of the Apollo 11 flight. To name a few:

The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library is having a party with “games, crafts, and light snacks” on July 20 to “celebrate man’s landing on the Moon.”

The Saratoga Springs Public Library had the event “To the Moon and Beyond – 50 Years of Space Exploration” on July 11.

The Children’s Museum at Saratoga is having an “Evening at the Museum” on July 26 “with an option to participate in an out of this world special program to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.”

The Crandall Public Library had a live webcast event celebrating and educating about the Apollo 11 mission.

All of those are without even going into the various events that NASA itself planned for the anniversary and which are still ongoing, such as a live broadcast from Kennedy Space Center on July 19, a permanent exhibit at

the National Automobile Museum in Nevada, the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama commemorating the flight from April through July and the Bell Museum in Minnesota having various events of its own all related to the theme “Year of Apollo: The Moon and Beyond,” ending with the “Apollo Anniversary & Cosmic 5k Fundraiser” on July 20.

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