HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Flying 69 miles above the far side of the moon, out of contact with Earth and a world-wide audience holding its collective breath, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fired their lunar module’s main engine for 30 seconds to begin the first piloted descent to the moon’s surface.
It was July 20, 1969 – 45 years ago Sunday. Hundreds of people gathered at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville to reflect on the monumental landing.
“(Wernher) von Braun used to say, today’s work must be done today, and that was something we carried around with us,” said Ed Buckbee.
“He would also say failure is not an option,” he said. “We felt like we were a part of the crew going to the moon.” Buckbee was the first CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. He was also an apprentice to Dr. Wernher von Braun when he was in his early 20’s.
He had a front row seat to the historic moment this day 45 years ago. He also had his doubts. “I look back at that moment of when Neil walked on the moon and I have to tell you, I really didn’t think we’d land the first time,” said Buckbee. “I thought we’d give a wave off or something would go wrong.”
Nothing went wrong. Buckbee told WHNT News 19 it was an accomplishment he often looks back on. He wants others to realize that it wasn’t just an American win, but a win for the entire human race. “The whole world joined us on that mission and we overlook that at times,” he said. “America led the world to another planet in our system.”
While America spearheaded the lunar landing, our great state and the Rocket City played a huge role in getting Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. “Alabama does not get enough credit for the fact that we built the rocket that landed our astronauts on the moon and 12 Americans walked on the moon all because we provided the machine that got them there,” he said.
While we look back on that monumental day in history, Buckbee is looking ahead. He knows we’re on the verge of something just as great as those first steps on the moon.
“When we need to do it, Americans can make it happen and I’m looking forward to watching that Mars landing coming sometime in the future.”