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Memories of Apollo 11

Apollo 11, NASA’s milestone mission that put the first human footsteps on the moon, meant so much to so many. From spectators who watched vigorously as history was made, to NASA veterans whose hard work contributed to the success of Apollo 11, memories as numerous as the stars were born.

Gary McCollum:

The first Apollo 11 sample return container, with lunar surface material inside, is unloaded at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, Building 37, Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). The rock box had arrived only minutes earlier at Ellington Air Force Base by air f
The first Apollo 11 sample return container, with lunar surface material inside, is unloaded at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory, Building 37, Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). The rock box had arrived only minutes earlier at Ellington Air Force Base by air f
Gary McCollum, Apollo-era quarantine control officer of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL), said he recalls “mass hysteria and media everywhere” during the Apollo 11 mission. One role McCollum played during that time was to prepare the lab for special equipment regarding crew return and to “maintain quarantine integrity.”

McCollum shared an Apollo 11 scrapbook, which he claims is one of a prized collection of scrapbooks he kept of all the Apollo missions. The Apollo 11 memory book is a binder full of yellowed newspaper clippings, old photographs of the astronauts’ activities on the lunar surface and the arrival, transport and analysis of the moon rocks. Another of McCollum’s keepsakes is a book titled “Apollo 11: Preliminary Science Report” and is an intricate report of initial findings of the Apollo 11 mission. The book’s first page started with a Summary of Scientific Results written by W. N. Hess and A. J. Calio, which stated “the soil on the lunar surface is weakly cohesive, as shown by the ability of the soil to stand on vertical slopes. The fine grains tend to stick together, precluding clods of material that crumpled under the astronauts’ boots.”

Terry Slezak:

Click for larger imager
Terry Slezak is the first person to touch moon dust with bare hands as he accidentally came in contact with it while handing equipment brought back from the Apollo 11 mission.
Terry Slezak is the first person to touch moon dust with his bare hands without having left the planet. The incident occurred while Slezak, already stationed in quarantine quarters prior to crew return, prepared to process some film from the Apollo 11 mission.

“When I was going through them, I came to this one and I pulled this magazine out and it’s all covered with black sooty-looking dust, and it was very abrasive to the touch,” Slezak said. “I said, well, that’s moon dust. That’s the only place it’s been. So I held my hands up and they shot pictures and the next day I found my picture on the front page of the newspaper. That is how I became the first man on Earth to touch moon dust with his bare hands.”

Slezak said as a result of his unintentional contact with the moon dust, he was interviewed numerous times for newspapers, magazines and books.

Eugene Edmond:

On the morning of July 24, 1969, Eugene Edmond, retired photographer in the Manned Space Center Photographic Technology Laboratory, was on the scene at splashdown as the Apollo 11 crew returned home from a successful mission. Edmond was of the ones responsible for the safe transport of the moon rocks to JSC.

The first Apollo 11 sample return container, containing lunar surface material, arrives at Ellington Air Force Base by air from the Pacific recovery area. Posing for photographs with the rock box are (left to right): George M. Low, manager, Apollo Spacecr
The first Apollo 11 sample return container, containing lunar surface material, arrives at Ellington Air Force Base by air from the Pacific recovery area. Posing for photographs with the rock box are (left to right): George M. Low, manager, Apollo Spacecr
Edmonds remembers that the first of two special containers of were his responsibility to transport to JSC, which contained the moon rocks. Edmond sat with then NASA Administrator Dr. Thomas Payne and the containers on the plane headed to Houston.

“We were laid back with glasses of V-8 juice in our hands and a bare foot each resting on two shiny, white, pressurized containers, one called the Rock Box,” Edmond said.

Edmond said Payne commented “Gene, do you realize that the entire world is waiting to see what is in those boxes?”

Payne asked Edmond to do the honor of taking a photograph of Payne standing on one of the boxes, Edmond said.

Payne stepped on the rock box, Edmond said, “and did a Tarzan bit with the fists on the chest, and then he looked down at me solemnly and asked ‘did you ever stand on a box this size that was worth 20 billion dollars?’”

They each took a turn standing on the box, knowing they would never again have such an opportunity, Edmond said.


Neesha Hosein
Johnson Space Center, Houston
281-244-2579

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Updated: 08/24/2009