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POSTED July 21, 2009 3:04 a.m.

It’s too bad Walter Cronkite didn’t live to see the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing.


The legendary anchorman known to many as the most trusted man in America died last week. He often said that the moon landing was the most significant event during his work at CBS and in his lifetime.


He had a good point.


July 20, 1969 was the day when America captured the imagination of a generation, in turn, defeating the Soviet Union in the Space Race and making good on President John F. Kennedy’s promise of landing a man on the moon and bringing him home safely before the end of the decade.


Yet the date may have been lost on the generations following this historic event in space exploration. I can recall when a young, mister-know-it-all reporter at a previous job struggling to recall the year this all took place.


Believe it or not, another colleague in recent years was convinced that the moon landing was a hoax.


For me, I’ve always had a fascination with the various NASA space missions, from Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” to director Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13.”


Howard, in fact, brilliantly captured the people who worked behind the scenes at Mission Control in his 1995 film.


Two years ago, I had a chance to see the actual Mission Control during a visit to Johnson Space Center in Houston with members of my family following a reunion at Galveston. No longer in operation, Mission Control from the days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo is preserved and converted into a museum.


Clearly the computer system developed by MIT for NASA is outdated, with far less capability than this desktop Dell.


In fact, much of the technology used then is primitive as compared to today. The computer memory aboard the lunar excursion modular was said to be less than that of a modern calculator.


While on the subject of technology, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin used a hand-held television camera during their two hours on the surface of the moon specially developed by Westinghouse for the mission. Cameras in those days were both bulky and heavy.


Today, most of us have camcorders or a cell phone with video capability at our disposal.


The technology of 40 years ago was enough to send men to the moon and back.


The Johnson Space Center also housed one of the few Saturn V rockets in existence. I can only imagine the Apollo space craft in its entirety as a majestic sight, sitting on a 40-story launching pad on Cape Canaveral prior to launching.

 Meanwhile, my college-age nephews didn’t share my enthusiasm. It’s too bad they weren’t with me on my first-ever visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


They would have witnessed me, in a fit of excitement, uttering, “That’s the lunar module.”


Aldrin, in a TV interview commemorating the historic event, said the spider-like landing craft barely had enough fuel to land on the moon’s surface. The Apollo 11 mission came seconds from being aborted but the situation quickly changed when Armstrong and Aldrin noticed the dust kicked up from the window of their craft.


“Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed,” Armstrong said in the audio to Mission Control.


Moments later, he took the “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”


To reach reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail vrembulat@mantecabulletin.com

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