SALT LAKE CITY — A few weeks ago, we asked Deseret News readers if they remember where they were and what they were doing when the Apollo lunar module Eagle landed on the moon's surface on July 20, 1969. We received nearly 200 responses.
The variety of answers shows both the range of our readers' experiences and how people all over the world tuned in together — regardless of where they were or what they were doing — to participate in this moment. Many of our readers were overseas, either serving in the military or serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A sizable group of you were attending the Scout Jamboree in Farragut State Park, Idaho. And most of you watched the historic moment on a small black-and-white TV with your family and friends.
We've put together some of your stories and shared them below.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.
Watching with friends and family:
- "I was camping with my family at Safari campground in the Smokey Mountains, Tennessee, and we were listening to the radio in the car. When they announced,'The Eagle has landed,' my mother jumped out and started yelling, 'We're on the moon!' All the other campers thought we were crazy!"
- "I was in Bryan, Texas, watching the moon landing on TV with family and friends who had gathered for the event. I was a teenager and it was extremely exciting. At one point I walked outside, looked up at the moon and thought, 'There are men up there right now!'"
- "I was at my grandparent's house in Long Beach, California, watching the landing on television with my family. I was very young, only 5 years old. … I remember when Neil Armstrong jumped from the bottom rung of the ladder to the moon's surface, there were gasps of amazement and shock in the room. I don't remember any cheering or yelling. It was almost like a reverent awe after witnessing the importance of that moment."
- "I was in Hyde Park, Ontario, Canada. After the Eagle landed, I ran outside to get away from the news commentary and savor the moment alone. I looked up at the full moon riding serenely in the sky. It seemed to my 17-year-old imagination that it was rejoicing along with Earth's people at this tremendous accomplishment."
- "I was working at Arctic Circle in Caldwell, Idaho. I took my little portable TV so we could watch. I remember just feeling so proud of our country’s accomplishment and appreciative of the astronauts! Later, I married a guy whose father helped design the rockets that helped get us into space."
- "I was 9 years old and living in the small farming community of Deseret, Utah. July 20, 1969, was on a Sunday and we watched the landing on our old black-and-white Zenith TV with poor horizontal hold. I was the only one in the family that could keep the knobs adjusted so the image wouldn't keep scrolling up. … After the landing, we held an early sacrament meeting at the Deseret Ward building so that we could return home to see the egress and moon walk, and as soon as the closing prayer was over, I ran out the door and across the Sevier River bridge to our house on the south side of the river. I got the TV warmed up (it still used vacuum tubes) and the station tuned in, then remained glued to the screen as Neil slowly descended the ladder. … I will never forget it and the thrill I felt that Americans were on the moon. Now I am a science teacher and have been involved in NASA educational programs over the last 15 years."
With the Scouts:
- "I was at the National Scout Jamboree in Idaho. I remember everyone stopping their Scout activities to watch the landing in the great outdoors. Along with several thousand other Scouts, we were watching it on a big screen."
- "I was at the 1969 National Boy Scout Jamboree at Farragut State Park in Idaho. Two of the Scouts from our council went into the National Scout Executive's tent and watched it on TV. They were caught by the Executive and as a result our troop was 'assigned' to be the last council to leave the jamboree when it was over. I remember the Scouts returning to our campsite and before telling us the bad news, told us with excitement in their voice about the landing on the moon."
- "I was in the High Uintas on a 50-mile, weeklong backpacking trip with our ward Scout troop. They had landed on the moon before we left for the Uintas. The first question we all asked when we were met on the last day was, 'Did the astronauts make it back?' We wondered how they were doing the entire week."
Serving in the military:
- "I was a 30-year-old flight navigator aboard an AC-119G Shadow Gunship just having completed over eight hours of combat and just about ready to head back to our Vietnam base when our crew heard over our radio that the American lunar landing module Eagle had just touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility on the moon! I will never forget the yelling and cheering of our U.S. Air Force crew members in the cockpit and the feeling of pride and patriotism we all felt as we listened to American astronaut Neil Armstrong."
- "I was in the Air Force stationed in Turkey at Karamursel Air Station. At that time there was no television anywhere in the country of Turkey, but we did have an Armed Forces Radio Station on base. Several of us took our transistor radios outside our dorm and looked up into the clear night sky at the moon while listening to the moon landing live."
- "I was returning from a night interdiction mission over the Ho Chi Mihn trail in Laos as a pilot of a B-57. I remember it was a clear night with a full moon and my navigator and I were listening to the radio broadcast on armed forces radio at 30,000 feet over southern Laos. Later my wife and I had Neil Armstrong to dinner in Paris while I was Air Attaché to France."
- "I was in Army Basic Training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Our entire company of soldiers was informed that we were going to be assembled to watch 'an event of historic significance.' We were marched to a large assembly room where, without explanation or introduction, we watched the moon landing on black-and-white television. After the landing, we again filed out of the room, no commentary, no conversation. No cheers, no discussion, no ceremony — but we did get to see it. Actually we were under orders to witness the event!"
Serving as a missionary:
- "I was in Marseille, France, serving as a missionary. My companion and I were invited to watch the landing in the apartment of a widow and her family. When the American flag was placed in the lunar soil … I looked around the room. Everyone in the room was standing with their hands over their hearts. More than a little embarrassed, my companion and I joined them. After the excitement had passed, I asked the widow why she and her family had risen for the American flag. She said that, near the end of World War II, her family was down to the last bit of food. They had heard that the enemy tanks were coming and that all would be killed. 'Instead of seeing the enemy flag painted on the side of the tanks,' she said. 'I saw the American flag. Instead of coming to kill us, they brought sack lunches and fruit. We stood when we saw the American flag because it is our flag. And,' she added, 'those (astronauts) are our boys.' I never looked at the American flag the same way after that."
- "I was in Hamburg, Germany. I have a newspaper with the headline reading, 'Der Mond ist jezt Ami!' (The moon is an American now!) As a missionary, I had little time to follow world events other than by noticing headlines of the print media as I passed various newsstands in Hamburg."
- "I was serving a mission in Dornbirn, a small city at the far western end of Austria. My companion and I had an apartment on the upper floor of a family home in Dornbirn. The night Apollo 11 landed, the landlord invited us down to watch the landing and first steps on the moon with him and his family. It was all in German over Austrian TV, but I was near the end of my mission so I was able to understand all that was said."
- "I was serving as a full-time missionary in the then Franco-Belgian Mission. While doing door-to-door tracting, the people answering the door quickly found out that we were Americans and invited us in immediately to see what was happening on TV. The people were incredibly friendly and we watched together as the events on the moon's surface unfolded."
Part of the Apollo program:
- "I was in Titusville, Florida. My father worked for the space program. He was a quality control engineer for the command module on the Apollo missions. He has a great story about having to inspect a replaced part the night before the launch, and he sat in Armstrong’s chair to do it while it was on the launch pad."
- "I was at Building No. 9 Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Spacecraft Center) Houston. NASA set up big TV screens and chairs for NASA employees and their friends. I remember the pride and accomplishment of the mission and celebrations from NASA engineers and contractors. I remember it like it was yesterday."
- "I was on the recovery ship (USS Hornet) practicing our maneuvers for being able to come alongside the module and pluck it out of the water! I remember all the safeguards that were in place for when we recovered the astronauts so as not to expose the crew to any possible contamination from the moon that they may have picked up. I remember watching President Nixon come aboard with all the other dignitaries. Above all, I remember watching history in the making."
- "I was in Vienna, Austria, performing with the Concordia Youth Chorale that evening, and our concert finished minutes before Commander Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. We all listened backstage (more accurately, back pulpit!) on a tiny radio. Bedlam ensued from the Chorale members — all teenagers — for hours!"
- "I was in South Africa as I tuned into the Voice of America broadcast on my tiny transistor radio. It was in the early hours of the morning when I awoke and tuned in — probably around 4:30 am. I went to the Johannesburg Planetarium to see it on the TV screens there, as South Africa didn't have commercial television yet. I took off from the University in the afternoon after classes, and felt overawed at what I was able to see."
- "I was on a humanitarian mission at Goose Cove, Newfoundland. At approximately the time of the moon landing I was traveling on a very bumpy old dirt road on a motorcycle to Goose Cove. When I heard on the radio of the moon landing, I laughed as I was practically bouncing in the air on the old dirt road at that very moment. The actual moon landing may have been smoother than my motorcycle ride."
- "My good friend Peter and I were on a very large passenger ferryboat heading from Patras, Greece, to Brindisi, Italy. The ferry was in the middle of the Ionian Sea with magnificent stars and the moon overhead. On board there was grainy black and white TV coverage along with an audio feed. When the lunar craft touched down on the moon around 11 p.m., the boat erupted in euphoric cheers and applause. The captain was sounding the air horns. Americans onboard were treated like heroes. People were buying you drinks as if you were a NASA astronaut. It was a great night and day to be an American and be in such a unique place for witnessing history."