Government, Professional Articles

An inside perspective on the moon landing

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing, I interviewed my dad, a retired NASA executive, about his time at NASA headquarters during the historic occasion.

“I had been working at NASA for less than three years in ’69. Had been working mostly on Skylab, the first space station.”

Public domain photo of Skylab

But of course he was aware of the planned moon landing.

“I did one related thing,” my Dad told me. “Langley had a docking simulator built under the roof of our large hangar. Designed to test the module docking at the beginning of the flight. [I reviewed] the report on the hangar tests prior to publication. Learned a lot about the tests and that part of the flight but did not participate in the testing itself.”

While my dad is humble about his participation in the moon landing, reviewing that report was obviously important. Making sure the a report is accurate is valuable work to us communicators!

His unique position at NASA didn’t stop my dad and our family from being riveted by the moon landing on television, along with the rest of America.

“As far as the actual event, I watched every second of the TV coverage. I remember Walter Cronkite doing a great job as the network announcer.”

Public domain photo of the moon landing on television

I can picture my family gathered around the TV (I wasn’t born yet), watching this historic event and feeling connected because we were a NASA family.

In addition to Skylab, my dad would go on the design many things for NASA. His home office walls are covered in patents earned during his 30 years at NASA.

The optimism of that moment, that (at times probably naive) belief in the positive power of government agencies to do good, that is what spurred me to a career in government and libraries. This anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on that.

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