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Dear Kay,

For today, here’s a brief episode from Nate DiMeo’s podcast, The Memory Palace.

It’s called “Craning.” Episode 74.

It’s a postcard, he says, from Brevard County, Florida, July 16, 1969—the morning that Apollo 11 launched Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon.

This caught my attention because I just finished watching the National Geographic series I wrote about a few weeks ago, Mars. That series captures the longing, the white-hot curiosity of the scientists and engineers working to get to Mars.

But somehow, the mission to Mars hasn’t captured our collective imagination the way the Apollo program did. Nate DiMeo’s eight-minute podcast brings it all back.

Do you remember where you were when Apollo 11 went to the Moon?





  • I don’t remember the launch, but vividly remember our grade six class being allowed to watch the television all day waiting for Armstrong and Aldrin to emerge and then walk on the moon.
    For us in Australia it was during the day, and in Hobart, Tasmania it was mid winter, so cold and rainy.
    My grandmother, born in 1900, always said that the weather was never the same again after man had been to the moon……

    • And there is a fun movie called The Dish, which tells the (true) tale of the radio-astronomy satellite dish at Parkes in Australia, and the part it plays in helping to transmit those amazing television pictures of the first steps on the moon.

  • July 1969–I had just graduated from high school and despite still fighting against the war in Vietnam, trying to ratify the equal rights amendment for women, and working for civil rights; I still had so much pride in American ingenuity/courage–exemplified by Apollo 11.

    Sometimes we smoked that illegal weed and listened to the Beatles and dreamed of a better world. —
    Now I am 65 and the only thing that has changed for the better is that weed is legal (Of course, now that I am not that interested in it anymore since I need all my wits, all the time,) But along with legalizing weed, corporations are legal too! We are still fighting against wars, the constitution never got ratified, Roe v Wade is in danger, people are homeless all over the world, and racist, bigoted, climate denying billionaires rule the planet.

    I will be back in the streets to demonstrate often. Maybe I will see you on Jan21st in any city in the US with our Pussy-hats on — being loud and proud.

    • Could not agree more! At 68 I too am back on the protest line. I’ll be in D.C. On the 21st.

      • Same age, same concerns, will be there also.

  • The family story about the moon landing is that as my parents were watching it on TV they asked me if I wanted to come watch it with them. I said reportedly said very disinterestedly, “No, I’ve seen this before” … Oh boy!
    I have no idea where this came from … I was just a toddler.

  • Ah the excitement that midsummer week! We were glued to the TV set. I remember being at my boyfriend’s house, watching with him, his mom, and a few of his eight sibs the moment they touched down on the moon. His poor brother had to “go” and was in the bathroom at that exact moment. Seven years later, I married the boyfriend. We celebrated our 40th Anniversary this past October. We still have a laugh over the “moon landing.”

  • I do not remember the launch but I do remember the moon walk. My grandfather, an Irish immigrant, turned to us as we all watched on our teeny, tiny TV, and solemnly declared that America was the greatest county in the world, we could even put a man on the moon. I also remember Apollo 13 quite clearly. We all sat in front of the television praying. The only thing on the TV was an image of clasped hands and the message, “pray for the astronauts.”

  • I was in college. I don’t think I saw the blast off but did see the moon walk on a friends tv.

  • Just saw “Hidden Figures” about women working for NASA in the early 60’s during the pre-Apollo missions. Would definitely recommend this movie!

  • I don’t remember the Apollo 11 launch so much, although I remember the moon walk. And I distinctly remember Alan Shepard being launched (1961?). The excitement of having the huge black and white tv rolled into our class! The idea of someone out in space!
    When I think of those space programs, I always think of Walter Cronkite’s voice. I miss Walter Cronkite, so calm, so reassuring….

  • Living in a trailer in Mineral Wells, Texas while husband trained to fly helicopters prior to Vietnam. A tough time for many of us as almost all men our age were eligible for the draft. I am 70.

    • I was there two years after you, maybe even in the same trailer park! I watched the moon walk while soothing a colicky baby.

    • Oh boy, I miss Walter, too, So many times this past year I said, “if only we could tune in Walter Cronkite to hear the news.”

  • I don’t remember the launch, but those first steps on the moon are so memorable for me. I was a new bride, sitting alone in our tiny apartment with my GI husband off fighting the war halfway around the world. I had the next day off of work, as so many did, so we could stay up to watch that first step on the moon by our brave astronauts. Right as Neil Armstrong uttered those famous words, the phone rang! It was my dear husband calling! He had waited in line for an hour to get a chance to call me! I blathered on about the moon landing to him, but he wasn’t interested…he only wanted to hear me say “I love and miss you”. A five minute call went quickly! At least service men and women have easier communication today, but there is no one walking on the moon during their calls today! Never forget that night!

  • My girlfriend and I had gone to see the Zefferilli “Romeo and Juliet”; may family stayed up late into the night to wait for Neil Armstrong to climb out of that Lunar Lander.

    We always watched the launches, etc. – to my late father, it was the science fiction of his youth becoming science fact.

  • I remember all of the space program, which should tell you how old I am! Hoping everyone goes to see HIDDEN FIGURES, which is a powerful and uplifting movie! Ann, hope that snowmageddon wasn’t too bad in your part of the world!

  • It was a less than the month after we returned to the U.S. from living in England for three years (my Dad was in the Navy). I remember sitting in the basement where our one television set was, with my mom and my big brother, waiting for the first steps on the moon. My dad had gone to bed — he had to work the next day. My grandmother got my brother and me first day covers of the postage stamp commemorating the first steps on the moon. I still have mine!

  • I was living in rural Idaho at the time. What I clearly remember about the broadcast moonwalk itself is that I kept running out into the yard to look at the real moon up in the sky, then back into the house to watch the televised walk.

    I was an adult, not a kid. And I ***knew*** that there was no way to actually see the moonwalk with the naked eye. But that looking from celestial body to television set was an absolute compulsion. moon/TV/moon/TV ,,, I think I was trying somehow to reconcile in my mind that this was **really happening**.

    We do weird things when faced by the inconceivable.

    • I love this story, because that sounds like something I would do, and because it helps me understand more than anything else I’ve read just how mind-boggling the whole thing was to witness first-hand!

      July 1969 was well over a decade before my birth, so I entered a world where we had always gone to the moon. It was super neat, to be sure (I had my space-and-astronaut phase), but it didn’t really boggle. The question of whether it would or could happen was already settled by the time I came on the scene, and nobody was going to the moon anymore.

      Nowadays, I’m afraid that I’m inclined to think that if we do ever seriously go back out into space, we’re more likely to wind up with something like the world of The Expanse, rather than a shiny new dawn for humankind. More planets, more problems, I guess! So in reading these reminiscences, I’m enjoying connecting to a moment when the awe was less tempered.

  • I watched all Apollo lift-offs. What I remember better about this one is sitting on my husband’s grandmother’s sofa with a roomful of family members gathered to watch the lunar landing. I held my 6 month old daughter, Sarah, on my lap, positioning her so that the images from the screen would be captured on her retinas and maybe somehow be in her mind as she grew up. My husband was beside me doing the same with our 19 month older daughter. We knew we would never know if that experiment of remembering worked but we hoped to give them that opportunity.

  • Annnnnnnd … immediately after reading your blog entry and leaving a comment, I went back to my email inbox to find an ad encouraging me to “organize your craft space”. Which I instantly read as “organize your spacecraft” …. 🙂

    • So funny!

    • I love this comment!

  • Calif. Bay Area. We had just moved there in June from Wichita,KS. I was 13. Now I listen to too much conspiracy radio and wonder if the whole thing was staged? 🙂

  • Love that photo!!

  • I was 17 and remember running between the TV and the window to look at the moon. I was in such awe that they were really there. And as sillly as it seems, I think there were many of us who lived in Ohio felt an extra bit of pride that a fellow Ohioan made those first steps. It was such a highlight during that turbulent time.

  • I do! My Dad summoned all his children home to celebrate. It was a big day for him. Huge.

  • I absolutely do! My older brothers took photos of our little black and white TV transmitting the images. I think I still have those somewhere.

  • I was On Oahu Hawaii, Dad was in the Air force. We went to the U.S.S. Hornet to see the Capsule in Pear Harbor. I was so excited when we saw the Apollo my hand went up and my finger touched it! It was crusty. I was bad, it was a no no. I will never forget that day.

  • I was in nursing school and our dorm had a lounge on each of the floors. There was a TV in each lounge. I am saying that in 1969 there was one TV for about 40 some girls. Our lounge was standing room only as we watched the moon walk. Thrilling and vivid in so many of our memories.

  • Who was president in July, 1969?

    I remember that there was a moon landing, but since we did not have school in July where I lived, I don’t remember if I watched it on TV. My mom was in the hospital for several weeks during that time. That is when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was only 15 and did not realize what a long, long haul my family (mom, dad, me) was in for.
    Hey, wasn’t Woodstock around that time, too?

  • I really have to tell the story of my father on this day. My father worked as a design engineer on the spacecraft landing module (LEM) for Grumman. At the exact time of the landing he was in his car en route to Washington DC where there was to be some sort of official honoring of those who had worked on it. Anyway as he was driving he was enjoying listening to the radio broadcast of the landing. Unfortunately he was on the approach to the tunnel under the Chesapeake. Just as he entered the tunnel, Armstrong was about to leave the capsul and take those first steps. My father had to speed as fast as he could through the tunnel just so he could hear the words. We are very proud of my father and his role in the space program.

  • That was just before my 13th birthday. I don’t remember the launch, but I remember sitting on the floor in front of the TV to watch the spacewalk. And I think I was alone – my brother and sister were pre-schoolers, but I wonder where my parents were? I think I need to ask Mom! Also – someone mentioned the movie Hidden Figures – I saw it this weekend, and was so inspired!

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