Summer of Space

TELL US YOUR STORY: What do you remember from the moon landing?

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, KUED is celebrating with the Summer of Space, a series of programs, events, and outreach initiatives designed to bring viewers back to that historic day in July 1969, when the first man walked on the moon, and anything seemed possible.

KUED’s Summer of Space is produced in conjunction with the launch of Chasing the Moon, a new three-part documentary series from American Experience that relives the history of the space race, from its earliest beginnings to the monumental achievement of the first lunar landing and beyond.

American Experience: Chasing The Moon

American Experience - Chasing The Moon - Premiering June 8

American Experience - Chasing The Moon

The series recasts the Space Age as a fascinating stew of scientific innovation, political calculation, media spectacle, visionary impulses and personal drama. Utilizing a visual feast of previously overlooked and lost archival material — much of which has never before been seen by the public — the film features a diverse cast of characters who played key roles in these historic events. Among those included are astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Frank Borman and Bill Anders; Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet premier and a leading Soviet rocket engineer; Poppy Northcutt, a 25-year old “mathematics whiz” who gained worldwide attention as the first woman to serve in the all-male bastion of NASA’s Mission Control; and Ed Dwight, the Air Force pilot selected by the Kennedy administration to train as America’s first black astronaut.

Credit: Courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, November 16, 1963

Explore the early days of the space race, the struggle to catch up with the Soviet Union and the enormous stakes in the quest to reach the moon. This episode reveals both the breathtaking failures and successes of the developing U.S. space program.

Earthrise - Image Credit: NASA

Discover what it took to beat the Soviet Union to the moon in the space race. In the turbulent and troubled '60s, the U.S. space program faced tragedy with Apollo 1, but made a triumphant comeback with Apollo 8.

Experience the triumph of the first moon landing, witnessed by the largest TV audience in history. But dreams of space dramatically intersect with dreams of democracy, raising questions of national priorities and national identity.

Moon Memory Highlights

Moon Memories

TELL US YOUR STORY: What do you remember from the moon landing?

When it fired you heard nothing, but you could see the clouds explode and flames followed. Then it began to rise.

Dale Christensen

When the first moon launch happened, I was on a mission and living on Merritt Island. The Ward was made up of people that worked at the Cape on the Space Program. We took a tour with them and got to see the Cape as never before. Most were highly educated aerospace scientist and engineers.

We learned about one of the weather towers just inside the Cape, but accessed through an outside road, if you could call it a road. Mother Nature was fast re-claiming it. In places, we had to get out and hack through some heavy overgrowth. Thanks to our trusty Rambler and American Motors, we made it to the tower, an 80-foot-high rusty thing with a platform just big enough for about four people.

We planned all this out. The purchase of mosquito netting was necessary. Rumor had it that Florida mosquitoes were liable to rip the screen of the window to get to you if you smelled just right, so repellant was a must. We had a two-day supply of food and drinks for the four of us, mostly consisting of bread, cheese, and candy bars. We carried all supplies up the tower. In the Florida summer, we brought a lot of drinks for everyone. We packed it in Ice but that was gone the first night.

We planned on two nights since the flight was scheduled for early on the 29th. We knew that there were many people planning on coming into the town. You have no idea how many 3.5 million people are until you see the cars. Cars plus cars, and more cars; on they came. Later we learned that every parking lot was filled. Then the roads filled up. Many left their cars and walked away to get to a better viewing site. The night was like eternity so we took turns napping. That next morning we woke on top of our tower and prepared for the countdown.

As sunrise approached, we listened on a little transistor radio for the countdown and then they called a hold. They kept stopping and restarting the count so we were terrified the whole launch would be scrubbed – but we were not going to leave. It was on every radio station, and you could faintly hear it in the distance in every direction. By 6AM that morning, even our little area was invaded. We thought that nobody knew about this tower since it was like chopping through a jungle to get to it. People climbed up the tower and hung on the steel beams. Some even stood on the tops of cars to see over the palmettos.

Finally, it got to 10-9-8, then after 9:30AM 3-2-1. When it fired you heard nothing, but you could see the clouds explode and flames followed. Then it began to rise. Sound waves were moving towards us across the palmettos, then a roar so loud it made a popping sound and beat against your body. The bird (what they called the rocket) rose faster, it tilted and corrected as it gained speed. Faster and faster as it arched across the sky burning through the thin clouds, leaving a giant hole in the clouds with a contrail passing through. Before we knew it, it was gone from sight. I’ll never forget the power of it. A dull roar rose from everywhere, from cheers and cars honking. Oh, it was all worth the trouble we had gone through.

We lived only a few miles from the Cape on Merritt Island, but we had to get on two main roads. It took about six hours to travel the few miles home. We could have walked in half the time. Pictures show from both directions the cars just stopped, and people out standing in the road.

That Sunday when we went to church, they had a prayer and only the sacrament at light speed. They brought in two TVs and placed them onto tables by the podium. When that fuzzy picture came through and at the words "one small step," the room erupted in cheering, hand shaking, and hugs everywhere. Later the Bishop said he was sure the Lord understood.

Reflections on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Moon Landing: It Was Just One More Weird Thing

Rebecca Thomas

My parents, siblings, and I were on a month’s-long trailer-camping vacation in July of 1969 and were staying in a well-populated KOA somewhere along the winding coastline of either Washington or Oregon. These long summer trips were part of our routine for many years and landed us in a variety of off-the-beaten-path locations.

During the early evening of July 20, we stood in the rustic KOA general store along with several other campers and watched the scratchy black-and-white image of Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon. I could only judge by the reactions of the adults in the room— and by the awe that seemed to resonate from Walter Cronkite’s voice— that maybe this was something out of the ordinary. But for me, it was really just one more weird thing that I was seeing on TV.

I was 15-years-old in 1969, and the oldest of three children. A brother and sister were two and four years younger, respectively (neither has a memory of the moon landing). The year prior, 1968, was the beginning of my transition from adolescent to young adult—when one moment a childish outlook is replaced by a mature observation, only moments later to have the process reversed. It was a year filled with a dizzying array of the some of the most sensational and tragic news stories our country has ever seen. For me, as my world view was developing, the events of 1968 were both confusing and frightening.

What became ordinary was to see images every night on the evening news of soldiers wading in waist-deep water holding their rifles above their heads, tanks rolling down dirt roads that were fringed with palm trees, straw huts on fire, all accompanied by a lot of smoke and sporadic machine-gun fire and Dan Rather’s often frantic narratives. The crawl at the bottom of the TV screen listed the number of US soldiers killed and wounded the previous day. Then, in the blink of an eye, these horrific scenes were rendered unreal by a quick transition to an Ultra-Brite toothpaste commercial or a sexy cigarette ad. This was the drumbeat that I grew accustomed to in 1968 and it happened every single night.

The drumbeat also included the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. The photo of Kennedy on the floor of the restaurant kitchen with blood pooling around his head—when just moments before he was smiling and vibrant and alive—remains vivid in my memory, and became the moment I began to understand the concept of mortality, as I realized that life and death could be separated by only a single instant.

King’s death sparked riots with towns aflame throughout the year, all televised and further etched into my consciousness. The riots—so many of them—just blurred together. The student protests, the racial protests, the political protests. So many images of police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers. It was a hopeless feeling, even for a fourteen-year-old.

Everything really seemed to come apart in August, with yet another war, this one seemingly turned on ourselves: the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I remember being alarmed by the sight of another war, only this time in a city, not a jungle. The police and National Guard, the protesters, the fires, the Molotov cocktails. The disorder within the convention itself. I was in disbelief when my parents told me that it was happening in Chicago. I couldn’t believe there was a war in Chicago, in our own country, right now. My parents, themselves, were unnerved and could only watch in dismay as the violence unfolded.

There was so much to add to the drumbeat: the Tet Offensive. President Johnson’s announcement that he wouldn’t run for reelection. The SDS. Black Panthers. The Beatles. Hey Jude. Laugh In. Richard Nixon on Laugh In. Richard Nixon being elected president. It became a world where anything and everything could and did happen, and almost all of it was violent. The only beautiful thing I remember from 1968 was the glorious “Earthrise” photo taken from space by Apollo 8.

Nineteen-sixty-nine had its own share of drama, but 1968 will forever be engrained in my mind—so much so, that by the time I watched Neil Armstrong set his foot awkwardly on the moon’s surface on July 20, it was truly just one more weird thing.

Within seconds, a large crowd surrounded my patrol vehicle. As the landing neared, there was absolute silence.

Lee Dalton

I was a ranger in Yosemite National Park at the time. The entire park was abuzz with excitement. There was no TV available there to park visitors at the time and radio reception was very poor. Visitors were constantly asking if we had heard any recent news.

As time drew near for the expected landing, our dispatcher discovered that he could receive a good radio broadcast. So he set his microphone beside his radio and held the key down, thus transmitting the broadcast to radios in all our ranger and maintenance vehicles. In the campgrounds, a few visitors who had found a signal were sharing it with others. I was in one of the campgrounds along the Merced River at the east end of the valley, so I switched my radio receiver to PA and broadcast it with volume turned up.

Within seconds, a large crowd surrounded my patrol vehicle. As the landing neared, there was absolute silence. I'm sure no one was breathing. I know I wasn't.

Then came the words, "The Eagle has landed."

It was as if the lid had been taken off a pressure cooker. There was a loud exhalation of hundreds of breaths. But even so, for a long moment there was still mainly silence. I remember tears running down my cheeks and when I looked around, I saw a lot of others, too.

Then came the smiles. It was perhaps a minute until those smiles began breaking out and everyone I could see in every direction began clapping one another on their backs and then the cheers began.

Remember, too, that 1969 was one of those years when there was a lot of turmoil in America. It was the beginning of the anti-war movement; the drug revolution; hippies were blossoming; but for a few moments, at least, Americans of all kinds --- hippies, anti war types, rangers, and people of all other kinds came together.

It was one of those things you could never possibly forget.

The nurses would come and go and were sure that we had a moon baby coming.

Elease King

My baby would be ready to be born in late July 1969. I was so excited when I learned that it would coincide with the moon landing. I checked into the hospital on the 20th with a television monitor above us in our private room. The nurses would come and go and were sure that we had a moon baby coming.

The astronauts were scheduled for a nap and then their walk. They decided they were too excited to take the their nap and were given the okay to land before Midnight on July 20th. I kept saying to the monitor, "No, take your nap! I need a little more time." Although my baby and I were not quite ready, I was thrilled to watch the fuzzy video of our brave astronauts during the landing and the "Giant step for mankind." It certainly helped distract me from my difficult work. Everything came out perfectly for us all - here and on the moon. My baby was born after Midnight on July 21, 1969.

I remember my dad holding me up to the window of the kitchen of The Bucaneer pub which had a small black and white TV on a shelf.

Gerard Hancock

My parents had taken my brother and I on our annual caravan holiday to Porthcawl in South Wales, I was 8-years-old. On the evening (GMT) that the landing took place, we went to the funfair at Coney Beach.

I remember my dad holding me up to the window of the kitchen of The Bucaneer pub which had a small black and white TV on a shelf, and I saw images of the coverage of the landing being broadcast.

I was standing on the flight deck of the USS Ticonderoga watching the recovery of Apollo 16.

David Tilson

My Mother and My two brothers were on vacation staying at my Aunts house in Peabody, Kansas on July 20th 1969. I remember watching Neil and Buzz walking around on the moon. The picture was very grainy and both guys had little 'ghosts' following them around.

When the EVA was over, and they were back inside the LEM, I still wanted to watch even knowing they would not come out again. Three years later on April 27th, 1972 I was standing on the flight deck of the USS Ticonderoga watching the recovery of Apollo 16. We were on station between Christmas island, and American Samoa. We had picked them up on radar around 9am, and before 10am the recovery was over. Great memories!!!


Dark Skies Stories from KUED

Commemorate the Moon Landing With Kids


Our Sponsor