THE MOON LANDING AS SEEN FROM A NEWSPAPER OFFICE
July 20, 1969 – [4:17 pm EDT] Apollo 11 becomes the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon.
Neil Armstrong (commander), Buzz Aldrin (lunar module pilot) and Michael Collins(command module pilot) were the crew.
The Apollo 11 spacecraft consisted of the command module, Columbia, and the lunar module, Eagle.
At my newspaper office in Linz it was just after 10 P.M. on this muggy Sunday in July. In the large conference room you could have heard a feather drop. Nobody dared light a lighter, beer bottles were set down on the table with the same quiet care a newborn would have deserved. The only noise came from the five television monitors and the TELEX machines in the next room. Every editor was present and despite the heat we all wore our best ties and coats. We were totally mesmerized by what was happening some 240,000 miles from where we sat: The lunar lander Eagle was about to touch down on the surface of the moon. We had senior editors who had covered the evacuation of concentration camps, had seen world leaders assassinated and were normally too jaded to lift an eyebrow when an aircraft disaster was reported to get off their chairs to fetch the yellow TELEX message. But on this night for some reason every person present seemed to recognize that we were in the presence of something so extraordinary, so truly earth shattering that it almost took our collective breaths away. And then, one by one we all stood in total silence until we heard the famous first words by Neil Armstrong, "The Eagle has landed".
Our Editor-in-Chief Dr. Hermann Polz broke the silence: "We have until tomorrow afternoon to put this paper together, so we might as well enjoy the night, TV and radio will have their time with this first but we have the opportunity to celebrate this event in print if they take off successfully and are on their way home. And now the bar is open".
Needless to say, we all partook but we were never far away from the TV screens and almost every member of the editorial staff from all segments, be it culture or sports, local and foreign politics, science and the children's' section remained. Even our 76 year old garden editor, a respected grandmother of eight was seen with a jug of port wine. We were part of something that transcended age and seniority, smoothed out petty past squabbles or inter office jealousies. We were one group of dedicated friends, welded together forever by having been part of something extraordinary. In all my years in Newsrooms in three continents I have never felt something like this again and to this day I am grateful of this opportunity.
|Space Shuttle Challenger seconds before she exploded|
The only other space event that has left a similar feeling of awe and impotence was on my (Catholic) name day, Jan. 28, 1986. I was typing up a story about a boring town hall meeting in the office of the Norwich Bulletin in Connecticut, when someone in the newsroom yelled "Challenger has exploded". We all congregated around the TV and watched with incredulity as the people in mission control in Houston were grappling with events just a few minutes after the launch. Challenger had flown just over 70 seconds and the smoke was just clearing on the launch pad.
Well, no reason for a history lesion. We all remember this and the tragedy of the Columbia which was the death knell for the shuttle program just as the Paris crash of the Concorde on July 25 2000 ended this program after 40 years.
|Concorde on fire right after takeoff|
I admired the Concorde more than any other craft I had seen or experienced in my flying years I had the opportunity to fly on her twice, courtesy of Air France which was generous in allowing returning pilots to "dead-head" back to New York if a seat was available. The pilots even let us see the cockpit which was smaller and more cramped than any of the machines I flew. Yet, it was an old fashioned aircraft in other ways - the instrumentation was analog just like in my planes, everything was laid out elegantly and I believe that any one of us senior pilots could have flown her with minimal training. The select crew that worked the Concorde even did not get paid any more than the pilots who flew the Airbus series. Like most tales in aviation, most is the result of over active imagination by people outside of the industry. Very few pilots ever dated any of our pretty flight attendants, we held no mystery for then, we were just co-workers even if we got paid a little better. There were no secret dalliances just a lot of good friendships some of which lasted a lifetime...
Enough reminiscing for today
Thank you for reading the ramblings of an old guy. I'll try to make it more interesting tomorrow.