Our Board and Staff: Remembering the First Lunar Landing

Saturday July 20, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the First Lunar Landing! To commemorate the occasion, we’re sharing stories from what our team remembers of the first lunar landing. Do you have a unique story to share? Tell us in the comments!

Where were you…

…on July 20, 1969, when American Astronaut Neil Armstrong took humanity’s first steps on the moon?

We asked this question of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center’s board and staff. Here are some of their recollections. We’ll add more as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaches.

Board Member Bill Remick: On July 20th, 1969 I was in Jamaica, completing a two year project as an educational consultant to a consortium of several aluminum companies. The purpose was to work with a three-person committee to oversee the design, construction, staffing and opening of a pair of American-style schools. Ever since President Kennedy had announced a plan to have NASA put a man on the moon within 10 years, the whole island of Jamaica had been following the progress. Special interest was worldwide for two reasons: Kennedy was extremely popular and the Cold War was going on between Russia and the U.S. Thus this culmination of the Space Race created deep interest. Intense excitement was in the air as the Apollo 11 Mission took off safely, landed the lunar capsule on the Moon, headed back home and landed safely on Earth. What a tremendous victory for NASA and the U.S.!

Board Member Mike Cusack: I wasn’t alive at the time, but I remember learning in school what a significant achievement that was. To actually send someone from our planet to another is an amazing feat!  I know that for me, that showed that with enough hard work, teamwork, and vision, anything can happen, including voyaging and landing on another planet!

Director of Development Trip Anderson: I remember the first moon landing and the buzz it fostered, but I was not an eyewitness to the live events or news stories.  I was deep in the Canadian woods [Algonquin Provincial Park] taking kids on canoe trips and totally "off-the-grid" as it existed in those days - no TV, no radio, and no newspapers.  

All my recollections are centered on what I learned upon returning home to the states (in Jamestown, NY) at the time, and at the start of my prep school academic year in New England.  I do however recall seeing re-runs of Walter Cronkite's news reports and commentary from programs such as The Nightly News and The 20th (21st) Century TV documentaries.  In my high school classes, there was certainly much discussion of the lunar landing, the Space Race, the Vietnam war, and other momentous world events of the time (and yes Woodstock too!)  As I recall, 1969 was a very difficult and turbulent time to be a draft-eligible teenager.

Executive Director Jeanne Gerulskis: I had just finished up my first year of high school when my parents rented a cottage on the shore of Tucker Pond in Warner, NH. My mother, father, three sisters and I all gathered with our Tucker Pond neighbors in the dining room of Peggy and Captain Jack, the only people on our side of the pond with a TV. We crowded around the little black-and white television set, first gasping and then cheering together as Neil Armstrong stepped out from his capsule and said in his quiet way, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Be sure to join us on Saturday, July 20th for a day of celebration and learning about the moon - past, present, and future- at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center!