In the long course of human history, few events have captured the world’s attention, imagination or excitement, as did the flight of Apollo XI and the first manned lunar landing on July 20, 1969.
For many months, and certainly in the days and weeks leading up to the historic flight, hundreds of millions of people from all around the world were focused, if not fixated on the story of Apollo XI and mankind’s impending Journey to the Moon. Some gathered in their living rooms and kitchens and listened on their radios, while others scoured their local newspapers and watched their televisions for every news report, photograph, interview or piece of information about the astronauts and their epic mission.
In the U.S. and around the globe, the public’s appetite for information and Apollo XI news coverage was insatiable and at a fever pitch. News organizations, TV networks, magazines and publications from every corner on earth responded by sending hundreds of news reporters, science writers and broadcasters to Florida’s Cape Kennedy, (as it was called in July 1969) to witness and report on the July 16, 1969 launch of the powerful Saturn V rocket, which would carry the three brave astronauts, Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins, to the moon and back, and into the history-books.
And yet as the world watched in wonder as the mighty rocket slowly lifted off its launch pad, rising into the summer sky, the story of Apollo XI, while historic on its own merits, was actually a collection of many stories and a tapestry of events all woven together. Sputnik, President Kennedy’s call to go to the moon, Alan Shepard, John Glenn’s three orbits and his tense re-entry, the assassination of JFK, Gemini, Astronaut Ed White’s first spacewalk, the Apollo 1 fire and deaths of three astronauts, Vietnam, Apollo 8 and reading from The Book of Genesis on Christmas Eve 1968, until amazingly, the flight of Apollo XI. All of this in less than ten years, before end of the decade, just as President Kennedy had proposed.
While history rightfully honors NASA and its brilliant engineers along with the brave astronauts who flew the missions, it is important that we also pay homage to many gifted journalists and broadcasters working for newspapers, magazines, radio and television who transported the entire world along for the ride to the Moon and back – through their stories, articles and news reports.