Marshall Space Flight Center veteran talks about the mission, and the First Man on the Moon

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's boot and footprint in lunar soil (Photo: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A dozen Americans have stepped on the Moon, but none as famously as Neil Armstrong. "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," said Armstrong on July 21st, 1969.  The Apollo 11 astronaut and crewmate Buzz Aldrin became the first men on the Moon.  It was the culmination of a decade of work at Marshall Space Flight Center.

Brooks Moore

Brooks Moore was in charge of the guidance instrument package on the Saturn 5, the Moon Rocket.  Standing looking at a scale model of the Saturn 5, he pointed at the section, the three-foot-tall ring where the instruments were housed. "And I claim to my structural and propulsion people who if it wasn't for that little three feet, this would be a big dumb boosters sitting on the pad. They wouldn't know where it was and where it was supposed to go and how to get there," said Moore while chuckling.

We all know of course that the Saturn 5 didn't stay on the pad. Certainly not for Apollo 11. "I did have the good fortune to be at the Cape (Kennedy) and involved in the launch. So we had a chance as we say, to wave them goodbye," said Moore.

The American flag heralded the launch of Apollo 11, the first Lunar landing mission, on July 16, 1969. The massive Saturn V rocket lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin at 9:32 a.m. EDT. Four days later, on July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon's surface.

On July 16th, 1969 the Saturn 5 took Apollo 11 to space. Brooks Moore was actually at home and watching when Neil Armstrong made that historic step to the Moon's surface. According to Moore, other flights and a lot of work and testing made the mission possible. "So we gained confidence, and so I wasn't surprised that we were successful," he said.

Neil Armstrong visited Marshall Space Flight Center more than once before Apollo 11. He was there with other astronauts to understand what was going on with building the rocket that made their missions possible.

Brooks Moore will tell you that it was a luck of the draw that Armstrong was the one to make the Moon landing. NASA scheduled astronauts for flights and didn't always know exactly what the mission might be.  Brooks didn't meet Armstrong before the mission, but today he has some ideas about him. "He was just a nice guy, just an all-around nice guy. He was probably as good a choice as we could have to have that honor."

The honor, of course, is becoming the first human being to step on another body in the universe.  That step is the climactic moment for a movie about Neil Armstrong.  It's entitled "First Man". Brooks Moore hopes the movie generates excitement about space and NASA's work. He hopes it leads to more big accomplishments. "But I don't think we're going to do anything soon that's going to surpass the even of Neil Armstrong landing on the Moon."

As commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong took most of the photographs from the historic moonwalk, but this rare shot from fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin shows Armstrong at work near the lunar module Eagle. Image Credit: NASA