Sunday marks the 45th Anniversary of the first Moon Landing. The Apollo 11 mission was launched from atop a Saturn V rocket on July 16, 1969 from Cape Canaveral. The world watched as Florida became the focal point of everybody’s thoughts. As someone who grew up in a NASA family, I spent lots of time around Kennedy Space Center as a kid, attending numerous Space Shuttle launches before the Challenger disaster in the VIP area. But I had long wished I was older and had the opportunity to be around in those amazing days when we dreamed of great things, and went to the moon.
What our nation did between 1958 and 1969 was nothing short of remarkable. The rapid development of the space program was the greatest demonstration of American ingenuity, skill and determination. No other nation in the history of humankind could have made our moon landing happen in such a condensed period of time.
During this period Brevard County swelled in population and relevance between 1957 and 1960 as engineers from all over the country flocked to the area. Cocoa Beach became one of the most famous places in the country. The best and brightest minds we would gather as a nation were deployed either to the Cape Canaveral area or to Huntsville, Alabama and the Marshal Space Flight Center.
The Mercury and Gemini programs had captured the imagination of the American public in a way nothing else had since the end of World War II. But the Apollo program which began with a fatal accident eventually moved the bar to another level. No longer was there a “space race” with the USSR but instead the world looked on with envy as to what a great nation could accomplish. So much of that work was done right here in Florida, by the men and women at the Kennedy Space Center.
The summer of 69 was an amazing time historically. The Moon landing was followed with five weeks by Chappaquiddick, Woodstock, Hurricane Camile, the last Beatles recording and ” The Troubles” starting in Northern Ireland. Sometimes we feel we are living through history but that summer something seemed to happen every single day.
A video of the launch of Apollo 11 from Cape Canaveral is below