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Moon landing inspires, excites 50 years later

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By Reggie Ponder and Jon Hawley
Staff Writers

Saturday, July 20, 2019

David Boone said Friday that even today, watching television coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing from 50 years ago takes him right back to the moment.

Boone, who was at the Pasquotank County Senior Center for a cookout, said the Apollo 11 mission was an important moment for America that brought the country together. And he thinks reinvigorating the space program now might be just what the country needs.

Boone said people came together to watch television coverage of the historic event. He recalls having a television on at work at his job with the New York City Telephone Company repair service. Boone, 69, was working for the telephone company for the summer while he attended Berea College.

"Everybody knew the importance of what they were doing," Boone said of the work being done by the Apollo 11 astronauts and all the technicians supporting them. "We just all knew that it was a most wonderful thing."

Apollo 11's astronauts were like rock stars and most kids wanted to grow up to be like them, he said.

Boone said he knows that some people question the cost of space exploration but he contends it's something that's part of the national spirit.

"America has always been about exploration," Boone said. "If we don't go to Mars it will be a tragedy — if we don't at least try."

Kuldeep Rawat, dean of science, technology and engineering at Elizabeth City State University and director of the university's aviation science program, said the guidance technology developed at the Langley research facility in Virginia for Apollo 11 and other spacecraft is what today allows drones to be operated in such a precise way.

The navigational technology is also used on today's aircraft and also finds uses in everyday devices such as cell phones, he said.

Dorothy Scott, 81, was working in New York City on Wall Street at Bache and Co. on the day of the moon landing in 1969. She said the office was too busy to stop and watch the event live, but coverage continued throughout the day and she watched it later after she got home from work.

"To me it was exciting," Scott said.

She moved back to her hometown of Elizabeth City in 2003. The idea of going back to the moon appeals to her.

"We need a second chance to see what's going on up there," Scott said.

Scott said she would love to see America send a man to Mars. In fact, if she had the opportunity she would love to go to Mars herself, she said.

James Robertson, 77, who was teaching junior high science in 1969, said he showed the moon landing live for students in the auditorium at the school. He believes America should return to the moon as a first step toward traveling to Mars.

"I just wish I could say I would be around to see that," Robertson said of a voyage to Mars. "I think we're going to do it."

Robertson called himself a "Sputnik child" and said the country viewed the space race with the then-Soviet Union as important for national security. He said he was encouraged to become a science teacher because people told him the nation needed people well educated in science.

Apollo 11 provided a great opportunity to teach science lessons to students, he said. Before the mission began he did lessons and projects about the moon and space travel, including the physics involved in placing a spacecraft in orbit, Robertson said.

In Camden, Flo Harrington remembers the moon landing well — thanks to her parents' disdain for it.

"She thought we had no business being up there," Harrington recalled of her mother, Hulda Curlings, as they followed the moon landing while living in Washington County. Harrington joked it was as though her mother thought the Apollo rockets would blow up the Earth.

"'Honey, no, no, no,'" Harrington said her mom said.

As for her father, Horace? He just thought it was a hoax, she said.

Harrington herself was thrilled with the landing, she recalled, as was her uncle, Johnnie Ainsley, who she said went into the Air Force and wanted to be an astronaut. He couldn't handle the G forces involved in traveling for space flight, however.

She added her uncle remains a big space enthusiast today, and constantly talks to her about NASA's activities and space news.

Another Camden resident, Geneva Hines, recalled watching the moon landing while on a family vacation in Maine. She was in Maine with her brother's family, and her nephew, then 8 years old, was fascinated to watch it.

Hines said she was proud of humans' accomplishment in landing on the moon, and noted NASA today is practically talking about "colonizing" the moon. NASA is looking at establishing or testing technologies for longer-term space exploration on the moon, such as mining lunar ice for rocket fuel. The new lunar mission is intended to help prepare NASA for a manned mission to Mars.

Hines also noted space travel has advanced enough to become commercialized. She noted British billionaire Richard Branson has sold hundreds of tickets, at reportedly $250,000 each, for brief jaunts into space through his company Virgin Galactic.