Man Walks on the Moon for the First Time
A Personal Remembrance From 40 Years Ago
By Glenn A. Walsh
2009 July 20 marks the 40th anniversary of the first two men to walk on a celestial body other than the Earth. 40 years ago, Sunday evening, 1969 July 20 at precisely 10:56:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (Monday/Moonday 1969 July 21, 2:56:20 Coordinated Universal Time), Neil Armstrong made the first step of a man on the lunar surface, while millions of television viewers watched on Earth.
As a young student, I closely followed the American Space Program from the early days of Mercury and Gemini, through the tragic loss of three astronauts in the fire of Apollo 1, to the remarkable accomplishments of the Apollo program, particularly Apollo 8, the first time men circled another celestial body in a spacecraft, and Apollo 11. Beginning in the mid-1960s, I kept a scapbook of newspaper articles regarding the early space missions. In fifth grade, at De Haven Elementary School in the Shaler Township School District in north suburban Pittsburgh, I joined the Astronomy Club.
I attended my first year (seventh grade) at the
1969 July 16 was a somewhat special day. This was the day I would begin
my third year of Summer camp at Camp Shaw-Mi-Del-Eca, located near Lewisburg
This was also the day that astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz”
Aldrin, and Michael Collins would launch to their destiny with the Moon on
Apollo 11. The day before, my father had driven us to Lewisburg, where he and I
stayed the night at the historic
Television had never been permitted in Camp Shaw-Mi-Del-Eca since the camp's opening in 1929; an exception was to be made in 1969. I was the chief instigator for ensuring that the Camp brought in a television so the campers could watch the astronauts step on lunar soil.
A television was temporarily installed in the
Originally, this historic event was scheduled to take place in the early
morning hours of July 21 (Monday/Moonday).
This historic event was seen on a hazy television picture from the only
television channel that could be received over-the-air, at that time: NBC-TV affiliate
WHIS-TV 6 (today, known as WVVA-TV 6) in
In the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, not far from White Sulphur Springs, the small black-and-white television (with a VHF television antenna on the television set) could receive no other over-the-air channels. There was no closer television station because Camp Shaw-Mi-Del-Eca was just inside the National Radio Quiet Zone, which protects important research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, about 60 miles north of the Camp (campers did attend field trips to this scientific facility). Television reception was not great, but we could see the images from the Moon, and that is all that mattered.
Many people remember the CBS television coverage of the American Space Program, in the 1960s and 1970s, anchored by veteran news anchor, and Space Program enthusiast Walter Cronkite, who passed away at age 92 on 2009 July 17, just days before the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo landing on the Moon.
The other two major American commercial networks also had good coverage of the Space Program. ABC television enlisted their Science Editor, Jules Bergman, to head their coverage.
Frank McGee headed the coverage for NBC television, which was sponsored by
the Pittsburgh-based Gulf Oil Corporation. At this time, my father, William L.
Walsh, was a Senior Research Chemist for Gulf Oil’s subsidiary, Gulf Research,
working at Gulf’s major research labs in Harmarville, Pennsylvania, about 10
miles northeast of Pittsburgh. These Harmarville research labs are now operated
To the shock of many people, NASA has recently admitted that the original video tape of the astronauts of Apollo 11 walking on the Moon has been lost; in fact, they believe this tape was inadvertently recorded-over by telemetry data from NASA satellites or spacecraft. Consequently, they have gone to a fair amount of expense to digitize and greatly enhance recordings of this historic event made by commercial television networks.
The camera used for these Apollo 11 moon recordings (mounted on the
outside of the Lunar Module) was a black-and-white television camera,
A separate 16 mm motion-picture camera also recorded the events on color film (from inside the Lunar Module), which was later developed after the astronauts returned to Earth.
For many years, a non-working model of the Westinghouse black-and-white
television camera used by the Apollo 11 astronauts was on display at
In the mid-1980s, this display-case exhibit was dismantled, to make space for newer exhibits. The television camera was placed in storage at that time. A few years later, I found the camera model in the storage area around the periphery of the Zeiss II Planetarium Projector storage pit, and I placed the camera model on display behind the large glass window of Buhl Planetarium’s third-floor Astronomical Observatory.
Twenty years ago, for the 20th anniversary of the first manned
A special display-case, with a pressure-sensitive alarm, was used to guard against theft of the valuable rock. With this special alarm system, a uniformed guard did not need to accompany display of the Moon rock. However, a Buhl Floor Aide staff person was required to watch the display, at all times the building was open to the public. Each evening, when the building closed to the public, the Moon rock was secured in the building safe, in the administrative offices.
The only other time a large Moon rock was displayed at Buhl Planetarium was in the Spring of 1970, about a half-year after the first Moon landing. In this case, a uniformed guard did accompany the Moon rock display at all times the building was open to the public. At this time, the Moon rock was displayed in Buhl Planetarium’s Great Hall on the first floor, near the main entrance to the building.
Authored By Glenn A. Walsh *** Sponsored
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