If my grandfather were still alive I think that Catherine Thimmesh would have wanted to interview him for her book Team Moon. He was there at Cape Kennedy in Florida on the day that Apollo 11 was ready to launch. As a part of the NASA Art Program on July 16, 1969 he was the only artist asked to be present with the Apollo 11 astronauts as they ate breakfast, discussed the mission to the Moon and during the suiting up before the launch. He was one of the few people with these guys before they launched up to space.
For the 40th Anniversary of the Moon landing in 2009 my father wrote a book about my grandfather’s experiences going to Cape Kennedy and seeing launches of project Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. In the book it shows my grandfathers drawings and paintings including many of the Apollo 11 suiting up drawings. My grandfather was friends with many of the Apollo astronauts.
Here are three of his suiting up drawings done on July 16, 1969
This is a drawing of Astronaut Neil Armstrong Suiting Up on the morning of July 16, 1969 done by my grandfather.
In Parkes, Australia there was a large satellite dish that had a very important role in the space program. The people there had the job to broadcast one great leap to the world on television. It was a very important job and it was also very hard. During the time that they were going to broadcast winds were blowing form the South threatening to knock over the dish making it so that the millions and millions of viewers might not be able to see Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the Moon. They must have felt a lot of pressure and stress having the weight of showing the only images coming form the Moon to the world.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen that day. It started out as a days work and blossomed into something better. I was sure proud to be there, proud to be part of it.” Cliff Smith, Parkes Radio Telescope, Australia.
In 2000 there was a movie that came out in Australia that was a comedy about the role of the people in Parkes Australia.
People in every country huddled together watching the TV screen as this historic moment happened. People all over the world came together to experience the same event at the same moment. A plaque was left on the moon stating,
HERE MEN FROM PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and I feel that the astronauts pictures were worth much much more. It’s like going on vacation and bringing home photos that you want to show everyone, you show them the photos to help them visualize the place where you were. It was the same with the Apollo crew, but in this case they came home to earth to show the world their pictures.
NASA’s Dick Underwood said to the Apollo 11 crew, “your key to immortality is soley in the quality of you photographs. When the astronauts came home with these photographs people were astounded. These were pictures from out of our world and that made people feel amazed that these pictures came from that huge grey glowing ball in the sky that people gaze up at on a night without stars and until now thought was impossible to reach. And now mankind had gone and visited.
On page 53 in the book Team Moon it explains how the astronauts would come home and be heroes. Everyone who worked on the Apollo project would be so pleased that the project, their project was a success and that they helped get man to the moon and safely back home.
On the Moon the astronauts took pictures that were sent to NASA when they got back. Dick Underwood an aerospace technician was one of the people that tried to figure out how to debug the film and pictures and kill all the “Moon bugs” that were thought to have been brought back with the astronauts and everything they had. They “decontaminated” the films and quarantined the Apollo crew. I find this very interesting that they were concerned that there might have been Moon contamination on the astronauts and everything they had brought with them home from the Moon.
When most people think of the Project Apollo Moon Landings they remember the famous photographs of the people like Neil Armstrong and the other Apollo astronauts walking on the Moon. If this is all you know then you are not getting the entire picture of how we went to the Moon and the many people all over the country who helped and worked behind the scenes during the Apollo Missions to get the astronauts there.
The book, Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh talks about some of these people and in their own words we learn about their jobs and lives and how they were part of the thousands and thousands of workers who helped to achieve man’s greatest accomplishment of sending men to the moon and returning them safely to the Earth.