clearn.png
Friday February 28th, 2020 4:13AM

Apollo 11 astronaut returns to launch pad 50 years later

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins returned Tuesday to the exact spot where he flew to the moon 50 years ago with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Collins had the spotlight to himself this time — Armstrong has been gone for seven years and Aldrin canceled. Collins said he wished his two moonwalking colleagues could have shared the moment at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A, the departure point for humanity's first moon landing.

"Wonderful feeling to be back," the 88-year-old command module pilot said on NASA TV. "There's a difference this time. I want to turn and ask Neil a question and maybe tell Buzz Aldrin something, and of course, I'm here by myself."

At NASA's invitation, Collins marked the precise moment — 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969 — that the Saturn V rocket blasted off. He was seated at the base of the pad alongside Kennedy's director, Robert Cabana, a former space shuttle commander.

Collins recalled the tension surrounding the crew that day.

"Apollo 11 ... was serious business. We, crew, felt the weight of the world on our shoulders. We knew that everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe, and we wanted to do the best we possibly could," he said.

Collins remained in lunar orbit, tending to Columbia, the mother ship, while Armstrong and Aldrin landed in the Eagle on July 20, 1969, and spent 2 ½ hours walking the gray, dusty lunar surface.

A reunion Tuesday at the Kennedy firing room by past and present launch controllers — and Collins' return to the pad, now leased to SpaceX — kicked off a week of celebrations marking each day of Apollo 11's eight-day voyage.

In Huntsville, Alabama, where the Saturn V was developed, some 4,900 model rockets lifted off simultaneously, commemorating the moment the Apollo 11 crew blasted off for the moon. More than 1,000 youngsters attending Space Camp counted down ... "5, 4, 3, 2, 1!" — and cheered as the red, white and blue rockets created a gray cloud, at least for a few moments, in the sky.

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center was shooting for an altitude of at least 100 feet (30 meters) in order to set a new Guinness Book of World Records. Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden helped with the mass launching. Also present: all three children of German-born rocket genius Wernher von Braun, who masterminded the Saturn V.

"This was a blast. This was an absolute blast," said spectator Scott Hayek of Ellicott City, Maryland. "And, you know, what a tribute - and, a visceral tribute - to see the rockets going off."

Another spectator, Karin Wise, of Jonesboro, Georgia, was 19 during Apollo 11 and recalled being glued to TV coverage.

"So, to bring my grandchildren here for the 50 anniversary, was so special," she said. "I hope they're around for the 100th anniversary."

At the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, the spacesuit that Armstrong wore went back on display in mint condition, complete with lunar dust left on the suit's knees, thighs and elbows. On hand for the unveiling were Vice President Mike Pence, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Armstrong's older son, Rick. Armstrong died in 2012.

A fundraising campaign took just five days to raise the $500,000 needed for the restoration. It was taken off display 13 years ago because it was deteriorating, said museum curator Cathleen Lewis. It took four years to rehab it.

Calling Armstrong a hero, Pence said "the American people express their gratitude by preserving this symbol of courage."

Back at Kennedy, NASA televised original launch video of Apollo 11, timed down to the second. Then Cabana turned his conversation with Collins to NASA's next moonshot program, Artemis, named after the twin sister of Greek mythology's Apollo. It seeks to put the first woman and next man on the lunar surface — the moon's south pole — by 2024. President John F. Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of 1969 took eight years to achieve.

Collins said he likes the name Artemis and, even more, likes the concept behind Artemis.

"But I don't want to go back to the moon," Collins told Cabana. "I want to go direct to Mars. I call it the JFK Mars Express."

Collins noted that the moon-first crowd has merit to its argument and he pointed out Armstrong himself was among those who believed returning to the moon "would assist us mightily in our attempt to go to Mars."

Cabana assured Collins, "We believe the faster we get to the moon, the faster we get to Mars as we develop those systems that we need to make that happen."

About 100 of the original 500 launch controllers and managers on July 16, 1969, reunited in the firing room Tuesday morning. The crowd also included members of NASA's next moon management team, including Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, launch director for the still-in-development Space Launch System moon rocket. The SLS will surpass the Saturn V, the world's most powerful rocket to fly to date.

Blackwell-Thompson said she got goosebumps listening to the replay of the Apollo 11 countdown. Hearing Collins' "personal account of what that was like was absolutely amazing."

The lone female launch controller for Apollo 11, JoAnn Morgan, enjoyed seeing the much updated- firing room. One thing was notably missing, though: stacks of paper. "We could have walked to the moon on the paper," Morgan said.

Collins was reunited later Tuesday with two other Apollo astronauts at an evening gala at Kennedy, including Apollo 16 moonwalker Charlie Duke, who was the capsule communicator in Mission Control for the Apollo 11 moon landing. Only four of the 12 moonwalkers from 1969 through 1972 are still alive: Aldrin, Duke, Apollo 15's David Scott and Apollo 17's Harrison Schmitt.

Among the gala attendees: Eight former shuttle astronauts, including Mark Kelly and his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and "space lover" and aspiring space tourist Vesa Heilala, 52, who traveled from Helsinki to Florida for the anniversary.

"I had to come here because in Finland we don't have rockets and we don't have astronauts for 50 years," said Heilala, who was collecting astronaut autographs on his colorful propeller cap.

Huntsville's rocket center also had a special anniversary dinner Tuesday night, with some retired Apollo and Skylab astronauts and rocket scientists. Aldrin was set to attend but was traveling Tuesday and likely wouldn't make it on time, a center official said.

Aldrin, 89, hosted a gala in Southern California last Saturday.

NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said Aldrin bowed out of the Florida launch pad visit, citing his intense schedule of appearances. Aldrin and Collins may reunite in Washington on Friday or Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's moon landing.

  ___

Science writer Seth Borenstein in Washington and videojournalist Cody Jackson in Huntsville contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP's full coverage of the Apollo 11 anniversary at: https://apnews.com/Apollo11moonlanding

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Business
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: Official: US has 'suspicions' Iran seized tanker
A U.S. defense official tells The Associated Press that America "has suspicions" that Iran seized an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates that turned off its tracker over two days ago in the Strait of Hormuz
10:24AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Apollo 11 astronaut returns to launch pad 50 years later
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins returns to launch pad 50 years later
10:19AM ( 12 minutes ago )
AP source: NY cop won't be charged in Garner chokehold death
AP source: Federal prosecutors won't bring civil rights charges against a New York City police officer in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner
9:48AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
AP source: NY officer won't face charges in chokehold death
AP source: Federal prosecutors won't bring civil rights charges against a New York City police officer in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner
9:42AM ( 49 minutes ago )
Facebook's new currency plan is under scrutiny in Congress
Facebook's ambitious plan to create a financial eco-system based on a digital currency faces questions from lawmakers on the heels of criticism from Trump and the treasury secretary
9:32AM ( 59 minutes ago )
4 Democratic women of color slam Trump for 'bigoted remarks'
4 Democratic congresswomen of color are renewing calls to impeach President Donald Trump after he said they should 'go back' to their 'crime-infested' countries even though they're US citizens
9:23AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Trump abortion rule seen as blow against Planned Parenthood
Trump administration says family planning clinics that receive federal money are no longer allowed to refer women to abortion providers
7:20AM ( 3 hours ago )
North Korea suggests it might lift weapons test moratorium
North Korea has suggested it might call off its 20-month suspension of nuclear and missile tests because of summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills that the North calls preparation for an eventual invasion
7:00AM ( 3 hours ago )
Trump renews racist criticism, says many agree with him
President Donald Trump renews racist criticism of 4 liberal congresswomen, says many people agree with him
6:16AM ( 4 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: Greek Cypriots reject joint gas drilling panel
Greek Cypriot leaders on ethnically split Cyprus have turned down a renewed proposal by breakaway Turkish Cypriots to form a joint committee on managing natural gas discovered offshore the east Mediterranean island nation
9:24AM ( 1 hour ago )
Wells Fargo 2Q earnings beat estimates
Wells Fargo 2Q net income jumps, earnings per share beat estimates
9:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
US retail sales rise 0.4% in June in sign of consumer health
US retail sales rise a solid 0.4% in June, suggesting healthy consumer spending will boost economy
8:51AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Official: US has 'suspicions' Iran seized tanker
A U.S. defense official tells The Associated Press that America "has suspicions" that Iran seized an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates that turned off its tracker over two days ago in the Strait of Hormuz
10:24AM ( 7 minutes ago )
AP source: NY cop won't be charged in Garner chokehold death
AP source: Federal prosecutors won't bring civil rights charges against a New York City police officer in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner
9:48AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Concern grows over UAE-based oil tanker in Strait of Hormuz
Concern grows over UAE-based oil tanker that stopped transmitting its location over 2 days ago in Strait of Hormuz amid US-Iran tensions
9:48AM ( 43 minutes ago )
JPMorgan Chase posts $9.7 billion profit, beating estimates
JPMorgan Chase profits grow by 16%, helped by a lower tax rate and the ability to charge businesses and consumers more to borrow money
9:47AM ( 45 minutes ago )
Nebraska woman arrested, fined for climbing Mount Rushmore
A Nebraska woman has been fined $1,000 for climbing the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota
9:44AM ( 47 minutes ago )