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Update  July, 2019

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Science & Technology

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

Apollo 11 at 50: Celebrating first steps on another world

A half-century ago, in the middle of a mean year of war, famine, violence in the streets and the widening of the generation gap, men from planet Earth stepped onto another world for the first time, uniting people around the globe in a way not seen before or since. Hundreds of millions tuned in to radios or watched the grainy black-and-white images on TV as Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, in one of humanity’s most glorious technological achievements. Police around the world reported crime came to a near halt that midsummer Sunday night when Neil Armstrong proclaimed for the ages, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Marcia Dunn

Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — A half-century ago, in the middle of a mean year of war, famine, violence in the streets and the widening of the generation gap, men from planet Earth stepped onto another world for the first time, uniting people around the globe in a way not seen before or since.

Hundreds of millions tuned in to radios or watched the grainy black-and-white images on TV as Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, in one of humanity’s most glorious technological achievements. Police around the world reported crime came to a near halt that midsummer Sunday night.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the Lunar Module “Eagle” during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity July 20, 1969. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

Astronaut Michael Collins, who orbited the moon alone in the mother ship while Armstrong proclaimed for the ages, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” was struck by the banding together of Earth’s inhabitants.

“How often can you get people around our globe to agree on anything? Hardly ever,” Collins, now 88, told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “And yet briefly at the time of the first landing on the moon, people were united. They felt they were participants.”

He added, “It was a wonderful achievement in the sense that people everywhere around the planet applauded it: north, south, east, west, rich, poor, Communist, whatever.”

That sense of unity did not last long. But 50 years later, Apollo 11 — the culmination of eight years of breakneck labor involving a workforce of 400,000 and a price tag in the billions, all aimed at winning the space race and beating the Soviet Union to the moon — continues to thrill.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Jr. poses for a photograph beside the U.S. flag on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission July 20, 1969. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

“Think of how many times you hear people say, ‘Well, if we could land a man on the moon, we could certainly do blah, blah, blah,’” said NASA chief historian Bill Barry, who like many other children of the 1960s was drawn to math and science by Apollo. “It really, I think, has become a throwaway phrase because it gets used so often. It gets used so often because I think it had an impact.”

Armstrong, who expertly steered the lunar module Eagle to a smooth landing with just seconds of fuel left, died in 2012 at 82. Aldrin, 89, who followed him onto the gray, dusty surface, was embroiled recently in a now-dropped legal dispute in which two of his children tried to have him declared mentally incompetent. He has kept an uncharacteristically low profile in the run-up to the anniversary.

Many of the Apollo program’s other key players are gone as well. Of the 24 astronauts who flew to the moon from 1968 through 1972, only 12 are still alive. Of the 12 who walked on the moon, four survive.

Tranquility Base and the U.S. flag are seen from a window on the Lunar Module as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepare for liftoff from the surface of the moon July 21, 1969. (NASA via AP)

A vast majority of Earth’s 7.7 billion inhabitants were born after Apollo ended, including NASA’s current administrator, 44-year-old Jim Bridenstine, who is overseeing the effort to send humans back to the moon by 2024.

Back in 1961, NASA had barely 15 minutes of human suborbital flight under its belt — Alan Shepard’s history-making flight — when President John F. Kennedy issued the Cold War-era challenge of landing a man on the moon by decade’s end and returning him safely.

At the time, the Soviets were beating America at every turn in the space race, with the first satellite, Sputnik, the first spaceman, Yuri Gagarin, and the first lunar probes.

JFK’s challenge struck John Tribe, one of Cape Canaveral’s original rocket scientists, as impossible.

The 363-feet Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 crew, launches from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida July 16, 1969. (NASA via AP)

“I was used to facing up to impossible things. We were in the rocket business, so we were doing some weird and wonderful things back in those days. But, yes, it was an unbelievable announcement at that time,” he said. “It took a lot of guts.”

NASA’s Project Mercury gave way to the two-man Gemini flights, then the three-man Apollo program, dealt a devastating setback when three astronauts were killed in a fire during a 1967 test on the launch pad. The pace was relentless amid fears the Soviets would get to the moon first.

Cape Canaveral’s Bill Waldron remembers working “seven days a week, 12 hours a day, six months at a clip” on the lunar modules.

Apollo 11 Lunar Module ascent stage, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, approaches the Command and Service Modules for docking in lunar orbit. Astronaut Michael Collins remained with the CSM in lunar orbit while the other two crewmen explored the moon’s surface. In the background the Earth rises above the lunar horizon July 21, 1969. (Michael Collins/NASA via AP)

“You know how we got to the moon as fast as we did is because we burned people out,” said Homer Hickam, a retired NASA engineer whose autobiography, “Rocket Boys,” became the 1999 movie “October Sky.”

“Come to Huntsville, go to the cemetery, look at all those young men who are dead down there. They worked themselves to death,” Hickam said. “Or better yet, go to the courthouse and look at all the divorce records. They abandoned their families.”

The pressure was so intense leading up to the flight that Collins developed tics in both eyes.

Collins privately gave the mission 50-50 odds of total success.

Launch day — Wednesday, July 16, 1969 — dawned with an estimated 1 million people lining the sweltering beaches and roads of what had been renamed Cape Kennedy in memory of the slain president.

Flight controllers work in the Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center during the Apollo 11 lunar extravehicular activity. The television monitor shows astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon July 20, 1969. (NASA via AP)

Among the VIPs: Vice President Spiro Agnew, former President Lyndon Johnson and wife Lady Bird, aviation legend Charles Lindbergh, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and TV’s Johnny Carson. Civil rights demonstrators who had descended on the launch site to question America’s spending priorities temporarily stood down to gaze skyward.

The firing room was filled with 500 launch controllers and managers in white shirts and skinny ties, including Wernher von Braun, the German-born mastermind behind the Saturn V.

The Saturn V stood 363 feet (110 meters) tall, the largest, most powerful rocket ever flown. Unbeknownst to most of the world, just two weeks earlier, the Soviets’ even mightier moon rocket exploded moments after liftoff, destroying the Kremlin’s moon dreams.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Jr. stands next to the Passive Seismic Experiment device on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission July 20, 1969. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the Saturn V roared off Pad 39A, its astronauts hurtling toward their destination and destiny 240,000 miles (386,000 kilometers) away. The command module, Columbia, and the attached lunar module, Eagle, reached the moon three days later. The next day, July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the surface in the lunar module.

Collins wasn’t overly concerned about Armstrong and Aldrin getting down to the moon. Rather, he worried about them getting off the moon and back to the mother ship. He kept his fears to himself.

“If it was unthinkable, it was unsayable also,” Collins told the AP. “We never discussed or hinted at their getting stranded on the moon. I mean, we were not fools, and we knew darn well that a lot of things had to go exactly right for them to ascend as they were supposed to do.”

Crew of the Apollo 11, from left, Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, module pilot; Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to the surface of the moon March 30, 1969. (NASA via AP)

President Richard Nixon even had a speech prepared in case of disaster: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.”

As it turned out, descent proved more alarming than ascent.

With minutes remaining to touchdown, the Eagle was rattled by one computer alarm then another. Caution lights flashed. But flight controllers had rehearsed that very scenario right before the flight, and so guidance officer Steve Bales knew it was safe to proceed rather than abort.

From right, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin walk to the van that will take the crew to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida July 16, 1969. (AP Photo/File)

Then a boulder-strewn crater the size of a football field appeared at the target landing site, and Armstrong had to keep flying, looking for somewhere safe to put down. Aldrin called out the distance to the surface — 75 feet, 40 feet, 30 feet — as Mission Control informed the astronauts of the fuel remaining.

Sixty seconds left. Thirty seconds.

Finally came word from Armstrong: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

The time was 4:17 p.m.

“You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again,” Mission Control’s Charlie Duke radioed back. (He would walk on the moon three years later.)

Armstrong descended the nine-rung ladder first, his left boot, size 9, touching the lunar surface at 10:56 p.m. Aldrin followed him out 18 minutes later.

Navy UDT swimmer Clancy Hatleberg prepares to jump from a helicopter into the water next to the Apollo 11 capsule after it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, to assist the astronauts into the raft at right July 24, 1969. (Milt Putnam/U.S. Navy via AP)

Working in one-sixth Earth’s gravity, they gathered rocks, set up experiments, planted an American flag stiffened with wires to make it look as if it were waving in the windless vacuum and took a congratulatory call from Nixon, who observed, “For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one.”

The moonwalk lasted 2 hours. The Eagle later reunited with Columbia, and the three astronauts headed home, splashing down July 24 in the Pacific.

After spending 2 weeks in quarantine in case they brought back deadly moon germs, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were given a ticker-tape parade in New York, followed by a frenzied monthlong world tour in which they met kings, queens and Pope Paul VI.

People line 42nd Street in New York to cheer Apollo 11 astronauts, in lead car from left, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong, traveling east on 42nd street, towards the United Nations Aug. 13, 1969. (AP Photo/File)

Five more missions took men to the surface of the moon — Apollo 13 had to be aborted because of an explosion — before Project Apollo came to a premature end, the last three flights on the schedule scrapped. NASA put the entire Apollo tab at $25 billion, equivalent to more than $150 billion in today’s dollars.

The first lunar landing, at least, lifted America’s spirits — indeed, the planet’s — when it needed it.

“The Vietnam War, civil strife, racial strife, all kinds of stuff going on that was bad, which I wasn’t paying much attention to because I was working so hard in the space world. The Cold War and all of that,” said JoAnn Morgan, Apollo 11’s lone female launch controller. “It was such a demonstration of the power and the passion of our country.”

She added: “I mean, literally, we did exactly what JFK said we would do.”

President Richard Nixon gives an “OK” sign as he greets Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin in a quarantine van aboard the USS Hornet after splashdown and recovery in the Pacific Ocean July 24, 1969. (AP Photo)

U.S. Air Force Sgt. Michael Chivaris, Clinton, Mass.; Army Spec. 4 Andrew Hutchins, Middlebury, Vt.; Air Force Sgt. John Whalin, Indianapolis, Ind.; and Army Spec. 4 Lloyd Newton, Roseburg, Ore., read a newspaper headlining the Apollo 11 moon landing, in downtown Saigon, Vietnam July 21, 1969. (AP Photo/Hugh Van Es)

Andy Aldrin, 10, sits on a pile of cordwood in the backyard of his home in Houston while other members of his family listen to the reports of the progress of the Apollo II lunar module carrying his father, Col. Buzz Aldrin and fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong to a landing on the moon July 20, 1969. (AP Photo)

Apollo 11 astronauts, from left, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong stand in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on the 40th anniversary of the mission’s moon landing July 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

NASA plans to send a drone to Saturn's largest moon

This artist's rendering made available by NASA shows multiple views of the Dragonfly dual-quadcopter lander that would take advantage of the atmosphere on Saturn's moon Titan to explore multiple locations, some hundreds of miles apart. (NASA via AP)

Jeremy Rehm

Get ready to see another world from the eyes of a dragonfly — at least, a robotic one.

NASA said Thursday that it's sending a drone called Dragonfly to explore Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Using propellers, the drone will fly and land on several spots on the icy moon to study whether it can support microbial life.

The nuclear-powered mission is part of NASA's competitive New Frontiers program, which launched the New Horizons spacecraft that became the first to visit dwarf planet Pluto.

Dragonfly beat out nearly a dozen proposed projects, including a mission to collect samples from a nearby comet. The drone is slated to launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in 2034. The plan is to land on some of Titan's dunes and later on a crater. Development costs for the mission are capped at around $850 million.

"What really excites me about this mission is that Titan has all the ingredients needed for life," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division.

Titan is a haze-covered world with a thick atmosphere. The moon has lakes of methane, mountains of ice and an ocean below the surface, making it an attractive place to explore whether its environment can support primitive life.

"We are absolutely thrilled, and everyone is just raring to go and take the next steps in exploring Titan," said project leader Elizabeth Turtle of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Titan was last studied by the international Cassini-Huygens mission. In 2017, the Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn, ending two decades of exploration. (AP)

Armstrong's famous "one small step" quote -- explained


 In this July 20, 1969 image made from television, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong steps onto the surface of the moon. (NASA via AP)

(AP) - What did Neil Armstrong really say when he took his first step on the moon?

Millions on Earth who listened to him on TV or radio heard this:

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

But after returning from space, Armstrong said that wasn't what he had planned to say. He said there was a lost word in his famous one-liner from the moon: "That's one small step for 'a' man." It's just that people just didn't hear it."

During a 30th anniversary gathering in 1999, the Apollo 11 commander acknowledged that he didn't hear himself say it either when he listened to the transmission from the July 20, 1969, moon landing.

"The 'a' was intended," Armstrong said. "I thought I said it. I can't hear it when I listen on the radio reception here on Earth, so I'll be happy if you just put it in parentheses."

While it seems no one heard the "a," some research backs Armstrong. In 2006, a computer analysis of sound waves found evidence that Armstrong said what he said he said. NASA has also stood by the moonwalker.

Armstrong, who died in 2012 at age 82, said he came up with the statement himself. In a 2001 NASA oral history, he said NASA discouraged coaching astronauts, a position reflected in a NASA memo. It cited how "the truest emotion ... is what the explorer feels within himself."

"I thought about it after landing," Armstrong said about his famous line. "And because we had a lot of other things to do, it was not something that I really concentrated on, but just something that was kind of passing around subliminally or in the background. But it, you know, was a pretty simple statement, talking about stepping off something. Why, it wasn't a very complex thing. It was what it was."

New technology helps search teams find people in wilderness


This screenshot of a cell phone screen provided by Yesenia D'Alessandro shows the route, as measured by the cellphone's GPS, taken by a volunteer who was searching for Amanda Eller, a yoga teacher and physical therapist who went missing during a hike in Haiku, Hawaii. (Courtesy of Yesenia D'Alessandro via AP)

Audrey McAvoy

Honolulu (AP) — Yesenia D'Alessandro loaded a GPS tracking app on her cellphone and trudged into a remote Hawaii forest, joining more than 100 other volunteers looking for a missing hiker.

She climbed through muddy ravines, crossed streams and faced steep drop-offs in the thick tangle of trees and ferns where her college friend Amanda Eller vanished last month.

"You have to search everywhere," said D'Alessandro, who flew in from Maryland. "You have to go down to that stream bed, even though you don't want to. She could be down there."

D'Alessandro and others gathered GPS data of the ground they covered, and organizers put it on a specialized digital map to help better understand where to look next.

The technology led volunteers to Eller, who was found next to a waterfall and survived for 17 days in the Maui forest by eating plants and drinking stream water. Her dramatic rescue shows how emerging technology helps search teams more efficiently scour the wilderness for missing people.

"It kind of led us to search outside of that high-priority area to where we actually found Amanda," her father, John Eller, said.

More U.S. teams are turning to the technology that combines cellphone GPS with digital maps detailing cliffs, caves, waterways and other hard-to-search terrain. It helps manage the work of large numbers of volunteers.

The system showed when Hawaii searchers had covered a 2-mile (3-kilometer) radius around Eller's car. After that, searchers sent a helicopter farther into the forest, where they spotted the 35-year-old physical therapist and yoga instructor.

"We never would have pushed out if we hadn't searched the reasonable area first. There's no reason to start reaching further and further out of the box if we hadn't completely searched the box," said Chris Berquist, a volunteer search leader.

David Kovar, advocacy director for the nonprofit National Association for Search and Rescue, said most search and rescue teams use digital maps. That could mean anything from basic Google Maps to specialized software called SARTopo, which California search and rescue experts used to advise Maui volunteers from afar.

Search organizers in Hawaii asked volunteers to download a $3.99 app called GPS Tracks, which draws lines on a map showing where a user has walked.

GPS data revealed that searchers were covering the same areas repeatedly as heavy foliage or natural barriers like cliffs blocked their path, Berquist said. Organizers started dropping digital pins on volunteers' maps to give them targets, pushing volunteers to cover more ground and making the search more accurate.

When searchers ran into cliffs or pools of water, Berquist had them place digital pins on their maps. Organizers then sent drone pilots or rappelling experts to the cliffs and divers to the water.

Organizers fed the GPS data to the California team, which used SARTopo to overlay it on topographical maps, allowing everyone to see what areas had already been searched and what still needed to be checked.

Matt Jacobs, a California software engineer and search volunteer, developed SARTopo more than eight years ago after noticing teams struggling to match details on wilderness maps drawn by different agencies.

What started as a hobby project has grown in popularity in the past couple of years to become Jacobs' full-time job. Search and rescue teams from Oregon to North Carolina have started using it.

Searchers used it in March as 100 volunteers fanned out in a Northern California forest, eventually finding 8-year-old Leia Carrico and her 5-year-old sister, Caroline, who got lost near their home.

Last month, teams used it to help locate a 67-year-old hiker who had veered off a trail in a state park north of San Francisco. A California Highway Patrol airplane using an infrared camera spotted the man.

SARTopo also is becoming available as a cellphone app, which will make it even easier to directly connect the GPS data with digital maps so searchers can view them wherever they are.

Government officials are looking at adopting new technology, including in Hawaii. Most large searches are done by volunteers because many places don't do enough of them to keep official teams on staff.

Maui firefighters used hand-drawn maps as they looked for Eller over the first three days of her going missing. That's because the trail system in the Makawao Forest Reserve where she got lost doesn't appear on Google Maps. County officials also overlaid aerial searches onto a satellite map.

Yatsushiro said the Maui Fire Department would adopt similar technology used by volunteers — who kept the search going after the first three days — if firefighters found it helpful after studying available options.

Mike St. John, volunteer leader of the search and rescue unit at the Marin County Sheriff's Office in California, said GPS tracking of where people have looked is "really critical."

"It's about using GPS maps and utilizing GPS to make sure you're hitting your assignment," said St. John, who was among those in California advising the Maui team.

St. John said his search and rescue experts are not set up to offer the same type of help to others that they gave to Maui but are trying to figure out how to do that in the future.

Berquist, the Hawaii search leader, visited California this week to talk with St. John about how Marin County's volunteer program works. He aims to set up something similar back in Maui.

After technology helped find Eller, her father is donating software and other equipment to Berquist's team, developing a search and rescue app and giving $10,000 to support Hawaii searches and rescues.

"We saw a huge need. And we feel so lucky with everything everybody did for us, so we're looking to give back," John Eller said.

Restored Mission Control comes alive 50 years after Apollo

Work continues inside the mission control room being restored to replicate the Apollo mission era for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

 Marcia Dunn

Houston (AP) — Gone is the haze of cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke. Gone are the coffee, soda and pizza stains. With only a few exceptions, NASA's Apollo-era Mission Control has been restored to the way it looked 50 years ago when two men landed on the moon.

It gets the stamp of approval from retired flight director Gene Kranz, a man for whom failure — or even a minor oversight — is never an option.

Seated at the console where he ruled over Apollo 11, Apollo 13 and so many other astronaut missions, Kranz pointed out that a phone was missing behind him. And he said the air vents used to be black from all the smoke, not sparkly clean like they are now.

Those couple of details aside, Kranz could close, then open his eyes, and transport himself back to July 20, 1969, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's momentous moon landing.

"When I sit down here and I'm in the chair at the console ... I hear these words, 'Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,'" Kranz said during a sneak preview at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Gene Kranz, aerospace engineer, fighter pilot, an Apollo-era flight director and later director of NASA flight operations, sits at the console where he worked during the Gemini and Apollo missions at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

With all the empty seats, the room reminds him of a shift change when flight controllers would hit the restroom.

"It's just nice to see the thing come alive again," said Kranz, who titled his autobiography, "Failure is Not an Option."

Friday's grand opening — just three weeks shy of the 50th anniversary of humanity's first otherworldly footsteps — culminates years of work and millions in donations. It opened to the public Monday.

Meticulously recreated down to the tan carpeting, gray-green wallpaper, white ceiling panels, woven-cushioned seats, amber glass ashtrays and retro coffee cups, Project Apollo's Mission Operations Control Room never looked — or smelled — so good.

The goal was "to capture the look and feel of July of '69," said NASA's restoration project manager Jim Thornton.

"The place is designated a National Historic Landmark," he said. "It's not for the brick and mortar of the building, it's for the amazing feats that happened inside of the building."

Johnson's historic preservation officer, Sandra Tetley, strove for accuracy. Her quest began in 2013, after the room had fallen into neglect. It was last used for space shuttle flights in the 1990s, then abandoned and opened to tourists.

The restoration effort finally got traction in 2017. The room was closed, and construction began. More than $5 million was raised, most of it donations. The city of Webster across the street kicked in $3.5 million.

Tetley and her team interviewed flight controllers and directors now in their 70s and 80s. They pored through old pictures and brought in specialists in paint, wallpaper, carpeting, electricity and upholstery. Original swatches of carpet and wallpaper and an original ceiling tile turned up.

Intent on authenticity, they scoured eBay and vintage shops for ashtrays and cups and turned to 3D-laser printing to recreate lids for the back-of-the-seat ashtrays in the glassed-in visitors' section overlooking the control room. Old binders for reams of paper were collected. Seat cushions were handwoven. Ceiling tiles were hand stamped.

Carpeting was custom ordered with special tufting and extra yarn, then cut into 28-inch squares. The restoration team wanted a lived-in look for the carpet and chose a shade reflecting years of nicotine discoloring.

And yes, Kranz got his missing rotary-dial wall phone.

"I fought for everything," Tetley said. "But we're getting everything we want to make it just completely historically accurate."

The green consoles were trucked to the Cosmosphere museum in Hutchinson, Kansas, for months of rehab. Cigarette butts were dug out of the consoles, along with gum wrappers and papers.

Modern LED lights and flat screens were installed to bring the consoles alive with images and flashing buttons; big screens up front will show key footage from the Apollo 11 mission.

"We're using technology to make it look old, basically," Tetley explained. LEDs also replaced the original overhead fluorescent lights that had faded the mission medallions on the walls.

With the International Space Station's Mission Control running 24/7 one floor down and work for future moonshots going on all around, Thornton said it was challenging to create a museum. But the painstaking work paid off. Some Apollo flight controllers were so moved at seeing the restored room that they teared up.

"Then we know that we've done it right," Tetley said.

There's one artifact, though, that doesn't fit July 1969. Following their 1970 aborted moon-landing mission, Apollo 13's Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert presented a mirror from their spacecraft to Kranz and the rest of the control team. Ever since, the mirror had hung on a plaque above the room's water fountain "to 'reflect the image' of the people in Mission Control who got us back!" Removed during the restoration, it's now back in its original spot.

Kranz, 85, still looms large in the hot seat, where he oversaw the Eagle's landing.

"It was just absolutely our day, our time, our place," he said.

The flight controllers meet every year to celebrate the day, although their numbers are dwindling.

They're proud to have helped resuscitate their Mission Control: "Part of our legacy we're going to leave for the next generation."

NASA: Intense work under way on rocket for future moonshots

A man walks underneath the core stage for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), which they say will carry the Orion spacecraft, and ultimately a crew, to the moon and beyond, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Janet McConaughey

New Orleans (AP) — As the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing approaches, crews are working around the clock at a NASA rocket factory, intent on meeting a new fall 2020 deadline to test launch a mega-rocket designed to propel astronauts to the moon and beyond, a space agency official said Friday.

"I came out here in the middle of the night ... talking to people who were working on the engine section, working hard through the night," NASA Deputy Administrator James Morhard said on a press tour at New Orleans' Michoud Assembly Center.

He said the core rocket assembly — or Space Launch System — is 80 percent complete, with one of five sections still under assembly.

If all goes well, the often-delayed Artemis 1 test flight is expected take place in fall 2020, though no launch date has been announced. Plans call for the rocket to carry an uncrewed Orion capsule aloft before the engines are jettisoned 8 minutes and 14 seconds out. The capsule is then to make a double loop around the moon during 25 days in flight, NASA has said.

Officials said no commercial rocket, current or planned, is as powerful as the Space Launch System, which will carry a load three times as heavy as the space shuttle could handle. They also called it a new approach to reaching the moon, unlike the Apollo missions decades ago.

"The exciting part is this is not going to be done like Apollo ... where we put a flag on the moon and left," said Lionel Dutreix, deputy chief operations manager at Michoud. "We're going to keep returning to the moon and use it as a technical base and knowledge to go on to Mars. We've got to make sure this rocket will meet those needs."

The rocket isn't reusable because, under current plans, it would cost more to recover and refurbish the engine assembly than to build anew, Dutreix said.

In December, the giant rocket is to be transported on the NASA barge Pegasus to Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama for testing. When topped with the Orion spacecraft and its fuel tank, it will stand 322 feet (98 meters) high — taller than the Statue of Liberty but shorter than the Saturn V rocket that launched the Skylab space station and the Apollo program that carried men to the moon.

The rocket section currently being assembled at Michoud will hold four RS-25 engines of the kind that propelled space shuttles.

The engines were visible at Michoud, with bright red covers marked "THIS SIDE FACES AFT" covering their wide back ends. Officials said NASA has another dozen for further Artemis missions, with six more under contract.

Asked whether $20 billion to $30 billion was an accurate figure for cost overruns on the program, the deputy administrator said, "I'm not going to stand here and give an exact budget."

Morhard also wouldn't say whether he expects NASA to get the $1.6 billion 2020 budget addition requested by President Donald Trump for space exploration.

"The House added $1.3 billion for science programs. The Senate hasn't marked up the bill. I'm waiting to see what the Senate does," he said.

50 years later, the moon is still great for business

This July 20, 1969 photo made available by NASA shows pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin in the Apollo 11 Lunar Module. For the 50th anniversary of the landing, Omega issued a limited edition Speedmaster watch, a tribute to the one that Aldrin wore to the moon. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

Alexandra Olson

New York (AP) — Fifty years after humans first visited, businesses are still trying to make a buck off the moon.

Hundreds of millions of people were riveted when Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Naturally, marketers jumped at the chance to sell products from cars and televisions, to cereal and a once-obscure powdered drink called Tang.

They are at it again in 2019, as the 50th anniversary of the giant leap for mankind approaches.

There's the cosmically priced $34,600 limited edition Omega Speedmaster, a tribute to the watch that Buzz Aldrin wore on the moon. And the more down-to-Earth Budweiser Discovery Reserve, which revives a recipe from the 1960s and features 11 symbolic stars in the packaging.

There's the playful NASA Apollo 11 lunar lander set from Lego. And Nabisco's indulgent purple Marshmallow Moon Oreo cookies. And who doesn't need "one small step" t-shirts, Saturn V crew socks or an Apollo 11 travel tumbler?

But seriously, some brands take genuine pride at having been part of the first moon landing.

Omega Speedmaster watches have been an icon of space travel since NASA chose them for its manned missions in 1965 after other watches failed tests. In 1970, the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission used a Speedmaster to time a 14-second engine burn to align themselves for re-entry to Earth.

"It continues to be an important tool to have. You have to look only to the Apollo 13 mission," said James Ragan, a retired NASA aerospace engineer who tested the watches in the 1960s.

Omega's gold Speedmaster is a version of the watches the company presented to astronauts at a gala dinner in 1969. A relatively more modest $9,650 stainless steel timepiece features a laser-engraved image of Aldrin descending from the lunar lander.

Then, there are the anti-gravity Fisher Space Pens, developed specially for the Apollo missions. For luxury space enthusiasts, Fisher Space Pen Co. has a $700 limited edition pen with authenticated materials from the Apollo 11 space craft.

Back in 1969, both Omega and Fisher Space Pen Co. were quick to promote their Apollo 11 connections with media and advertising campaigns, as were NASA contractors like Boeing and General Electric.

Stouffer's made sure consumers knew it provided food for Apollo 11 astronauts once they were back on Earth, launching the ad campaign "Everybody who's been to the moon is eating Stouffer's." Fifty years later, the Nestle-owned brand is celebrating with a media campaign to share some of the recipes from 1969.

But brands with no direct Apollo connections were not about to sit out an event that nearly every U.S. household with a television watched.

In 1969, Zippo released a lighter saluting the Apollo 11 mission and its astronauts. A half-century later, Zippo has sold out of the 14,000 limited edition lighters released in tribute to the anniversary, priced at $100 each.

Krispy Kreme, which says it served doughnuts to witnesses at the Apollo 11 launch, conjured up a new treat — filling its classic glazed doughnuts with cream — in honor of the anniversary.

If many of the tributes have a vintage feel, it might be because public interest in space exploration has ebbed and flowed over the years, with no single event capturing the global euphoria of the first moon landing, and the Apollo program ending in 1972.

"Since 1972, human space travel has been dead boring. We've gone around and around and around the Earth a whole bunch of times, and that is not interesting to people," said David Meerman Scott, a marketing strategist and co-author of the book "Marketing the Moon," which chronicles the public relations efforts that went into the Apollo 11 mission.

Still, Scott said the 50th anniversary comes amid renewed interest, with NASA's plans to send astronauts back to the moon by 2024 and to Mars in the 2030s.

Indeed, Lego conceived its lunar lander as a grown-up display set, part of its Creator Expert series aimed at adults. For kids, born to parents who themselves who have never known a world without space travel, the Danish toy company is releasing six new Lego City Mars exploration sets, designed in collaboration with NASA with futuristic rockets that would take humans to the red planet.

"It's about giving kids something aspirational, where they can see themselves, versus trying to project them into a historical moment," said Michael McNally, senior director of brand relations at Lego.

Budweiser, similarly, has declared its ambition to be the first beer on Mars, participating in barley-growing experiments on the International Space Station. Still, the Anheuser-Busch brand saw marketing potential in evoking the patriotism that the Apollo 11 mission stirred in Americans during politically polarized times.

"Beer at its core is a very democratic drink. It brings people together," said Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing at Anheuser-Busch. "We like in particular to remind people of everything that is good and everything we shouldn't forget."

After all, watching the first moon landing was a personal experience for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

That was thanks to TV — a connection Samsung has seized for its media campaign promoting its QLED 8K TV, tied to CNN's Apollo 11 documentary.


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