Hillsboro Man Recalls Working the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- On July 20th, 1969, America bested the Soviet Union in the space race.

Millions of Americans were glued to their television sets as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.

Harold Stratz, of Hillsboro, worked quality assurance for Boeing.

He was in the launch control center for the legendary moment.

"To me it was being a part of history," said Stratz.

He was there to make sure that all of the facilities were ready to go.

"An experience I probably wouldn't have thought, as I was growing up in Pennsylvania, that I would ever have the opportunity to be at that place at that time," said Stratz.

To cap off the memorable experience, Stratz shook President Richard Nixon's hand after the successful mission.

"To be able to shake the hand of the president, there are not many people that get to do that," said Stratz.

That one day in history, watched by so many, set the tone for space flight for the rest of the century.

"I think if you ever have a top ten list for the next thousand years, this would be in the top ten," said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

Now NASA, along with the Marshall Space Flight Center, use that historic moment from the past to build for the future.

"Our job is to carry that legacy on and take humans even further," said Lightfoot. "We want to get folks to Mars. They started that journey and we get to continue it."

"There's so many things that the space program has done for us and has given us so many things that we would never have had, I don't think, if we hadn't gone to space and gone to the moon," said Stratz.