From WNY To The Moon: Astronauts recognize workers for their role in the mission

Jul 19, 2019

The U.S. flag was first planted on the Moon 50 years ago Saturday, July 20. And as WBFO's Chris Caya reports - the crew of Apollo 11 went out of their way to thank all of the American workers who made their historic journey possible.


On Day 6 of the mission, and after nearly 24-hours on the lunar surface, Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on their way in the Ascent Stage of the Lunar Module to rendezvous with Astronaut Mick Collins, in the Command Module, in orbit around the Moon.

The Lunar Module ascent stage is photographed from the Command and Services Modules as it approaches from below. This view is looking west with the Earth rising above the lunar horizon. Astronaut Michael Collins remained with the CSM in lunar orbit.
Credit NASA

It took another three days for the astronauts to reach Earth. On the way, NASA set up a TV broadcast with the crew of Apollo 11. Collins said their trip to the Moon may have looked simple or easy - but he says that was not the case.
    
"The Saturn V rocket which put us into orbit is an incredibly complicated piece of machinery - every piece of which works flawlessly," Collins said.  

He went on to say they always had confidence that all the equipment would work properly.
    
"All this is possible only through the blood sweat and tears of a number of people - the American workman who put these pieces of machinery together at the factory."

Collins also thanked the many people who worked in management, mission planning, flight control and crew training. 

"This operation is somewhat like the periscope of a submarine - all you see is the three of us - but beneath the surface are thousands and thousands of others. And to all those I would like to say thank you very much," Collins said.     

Buzz Aldrin says, in discussing their flight, the astronauts came to the conclusion that it was "far more than three men on a voyage to the Moon." 

Earthrise from Apollo 11
Credit NASA

"We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown," Aldrin said.

Neil Armstrong thanked the American people for their support of the Apollo program and the industry team that built all of their spacecraft - the Saturn rocket that launched them into space, the Columbia - or Command Module, and the Eagle - or Lunar Module. Without naming names, he even recognized the local effort that went into the first Moon walk.  

"And the little EMU, the space suit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface. We'd like to give a special thanks to all those Americans who built those spacecraft," Armstrong said.      

The recovery operation of the capsule in the Pacific Ocean after splashdown. The three astronauts wait in the life raft as a pararescue man closes and secures the capsule hatch. The Apollo 11 crew was then air lifted to the prime recovery ship, the U.S.S. Hornet.
Credit NASA

Nine days after their mission began, the crew of Apollo 11 splashed down, in the Pacific Ocean, about 900 miles west of Hawaii. It had taken just over 8 years to reach President Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. It cost billions of dollars and involved hundreds of local workers and hundreds of thousands more across the nation. Niagara Aerospace Museum President Walter Gordon says it almost defies comprehension.
    
 "Not just the magnitude of the effort, but that it was done so quickly and that it was all coordinated and done essentially, except for the Apollo 1 fire very, very safely," Gordon said.   

Howie Bradt, a project engineer with Cobham Mission Systems Orchard Park points out, that the U.S. was in a very competitive space race at the time with the Soviet Union. And Bradt says in the early days work for NASA was done with a lot less paperwork, reviews and approvals - than is currently required.       
    
"So to do it as quickly as was done at that time just wouldn't be realistic anymore. Having said that though, today, space exploration does continue to get safer and safer so that's the value of the bureaucracy, I think," Bradt said.    

Former Bell V.P. Hugh Neeson alongside a Bell Lunar Module Ascent Stage Engine, on display at the Niagara Aerospace Museum, next to the former Bell Aerospace plant where Neeson worked for more than 40 years.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

Former Bell Aerospace Vice President Hugh Neeson says he has "immense pride" in the Moon landing. Neeson says at the time the company had about 8,000 employees at its plant next to the Niagara Falls Airport.

"People who worked at Bell, by and large, always say it was the greatest place they ever worked at. And the reason why is because we were working on exciting things. It was national stuff that we knew and we knew how important the work was," Neeson said.