When We Went to the Moon
Memories from 50 years ago
On a warm, sunny day 57 years ago, then-high school sophomore Linda Linder witnessed a monumental moment in American history, as she watched President John F. Kennedy boldly declare, “We choose to go to the moon.”
It was Sept. 12, 1962, and President Kennedy was speaking about the Apollo program in front of a crowd at Rice Stadium, trying to persuade Americans to support a national effort to land a man on the moon. Linda recalls that although school was not cancelled that day, she was invited to attend the speech as a member of the drill team at Waltrip High School. “We were just so thrilled because we were getting out of school,” she says.
Only seven years later, Linda watched in amazement as Kennedy’s goal came to fruition on July 20, 1969. Linda had just graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, and she and her old high school friends gathered in a Houston apartment to have dinner and watch the live TV coverage of Apollo 11’s landing.
“I just remember it was fantastic. It was so unbelievable that it was happening,” says Linda, now a retired teacher. “I remember that nervous feeling that we had as they were approaching and then actually seeing Neil taking that first step.”
The Houston-based Mission Control Center, located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake, was critical in the Apollo 11 mission. A team of astronauts was stationed there and served as the only people who communicated directly with the flight crew. Neil Armstrong famously says, “Houston,” before radioing, “The Eagle has landed.”
Linda is not the only Buzz resident who remembers that iconic day 50 years ago. David Rae, a lawyer, was only 5 years old and living in Mexico City when the Eagle touched down on the moon. Still, he has a sharp memory of that day.
“I remember sitting and watching a black and white television of the landing on the moon, and then the Mexican television lost the feed from the U.S. for a couple of minutes,” he said. “For it to stand out as one of two memories from that age, I think I really did understand the magnitude of it.”
David recalls that later that year, lunar rocks were brought to Mexico City, and he was among hundreds who waited in line to get a peek.
While David was 5, Aric Hoek was only 20 days old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. But he still watched the coverage.
“I remember being quite excited to hold [Aric] up in front of the TV so he could always say he saw the moon landing,” says Aric’s mother, Barbara Reichlin. “I remember I was filled with anxiety because you don’t know what could happen. It was a mixture of excitement and anxiety and, as it turns out, was a once in a lifetime experience.”
A few weeks ago, Barbara was reminded of the moon landing when husband Robert Reichlin found his old scrapbook while cleaning out a closet. Robert started that scrapbook in 1958, when he was only 9. In it, he taped articles having to do with space exploration.
“My father was very excited about the possibility of space travel, and he passed that on to me,” Robert says. “I remember Sputnik. That was a big deal in my family, so I started a year later with cutting out these articles and pasting them in the scrapbook.”
Robert stopped adding to the scrapbook at the end of 1965. By then, he was busy with high school and preparing to go off to college. Still, he understood the magnitude of the moon landing and saved copies of The Houston Chronicle and The Houston Post from that week.
“It had never happened before,” Robert says, “so it wasn’t hard to figure out it was important.”
“Moon” installation: Through 2019, Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive
NASA at Freedom over Texas: July 4, 4-7 p.m., Eleanor Tinsley and Sam Houston parks, 3600 Allen Parkway
A Night of Family Stargazing: July 12, 7-10:30 p.m., Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive
Apollo Anniversary Celebration: July 16-24, Space Center Houston, 1601 East NASA Parkway
Family Space Day: July 20, 3-7 p.m., George Observatory, Brazos Bend State Park, 21901 FM 762 Road
50th Anniversary Moon Lecture with Dr. David Kring: July 20, 6:30 p.m., Houston Museum of Natural Science
Galveston Community Moon Landing Celebration: July 20, 8 p.m., Saengerfest Park, 2302 Strand St.
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