Featured SkyMan says: Fifty years ago today Apollo 11; 7/15/69

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Skyman, Jul 15, 2019.

  1. Skyman

    Skyman Well-Known Member

    As most of you are aware, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The mission lasted from July 16 - 24, 1969. Over the next 9 days I WILL BE ADDING POSTS TO THIS THREAD with what happened on that day 50 years ago, along with pictures of items from my space collection. I won't necessarily be posting every day, as many of the days 50 years ago were basically coasting/traveling from the Earth to the Moon or from the Moon to the Earth.

    IMO what makes the Apollo 11 Moon landing so memorable were that humans were aboard. Over the last decade there have been many 50th anniversaries of robotic Moon landers, but they were either ignored or only briefly mentioned. While I will touch on some of the technical aspects of this mission, the predominate aspect that I wish to write about is the human efforts and the people that allowed Mankind to finally realize it's age old dream of flying to the Moon.

    Some of you are probably wondering why I started the Apollo 11 post a day before the mission started. The first and MOST important thing to remember about Apollo 11 is that it wasn't just 3 astronauts going to the Moon. It took a Nation (and Presidential and Congressional leadership) committed to the effort. At it's height in the mid-1960's, the NASA budget took up roughly 5% of the Government budget (just for comparisons sake, NASA's current budget is roughly one half of one percent of the US budget). While there was severe criticism at that time of this spending of the Nation's money, the driving impetus of the Cold War (hence the term, Space Race) kept the funds flowing.

    Aside from actually landing men on the Moon, it was a VERY good thing this money was spent on the space program. Because of the necessity of pushing the technological envelope new techniques, materials etc. were created that produced spin-offs that MASSIVELY increased the US' economic competitiveness. It's been a matter of academic debate since the Moon landings, but EVERYONE in the debate agrees that the US economy got FAR more back from the spending than the actual cost of the spending. It's agreed that, at a minimum, the long term effects on the increase in the economy were on the order 5 times the cost, with some people putting it as high as 10 times the cost. Most economists tend to put the increase in the economy at about 7 times the cost.

    This massive budget led to a work force on the Moon landing project of roughly 400,000 people. Without each of these people doing their portion of the project to the best of their abilities the landings would not have been successful. As mentioned, I'm interested in the human aspect of this mission. I have been lucky enough to meet many of the workers on the project, as well as many of the astronauts that flew on the missions. One of my favorites was a guy called Don Shields. I was lucky enough to spend many an hour with him working as volunteers at a space museum in Novato, CA., and having food and drinks afterwards.

    Don was an Air Force pilot who worked at Grumman, the builder of the lunar modules (LM). Specifically Don was the Grumman consulting pilot on LMs. He started with LM-2, which was universally recognized as having major issues. It eventually became the LM that is displayed in the National Air and Space Museum. Don then worked on LM-5, better known as Eagle. He trained Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on it's use, as well as being their interface with Grumman on what they would like with regards to LM-5.

    As Al Worden, the Command Module Pilot (CMP) of Apollo 15 once told me, "We (the astronauts) weren't nuts. We wanted to get home. We knew we were doing a risky job, but it was a calculated risk. We had hundreds of people like Don who helped to minimize the risk before we set foot in our spacecraft".

    On this day, July 15, 50 years ago today, Don's job was to inspect the Eagle nestled inside the third stage of the Apollo 11 Saturn V sitting on the launch pad, to make sure everything was shipshape. He was the last human to touch the Eagle while it was still on the Earth.

    Here's a link to an audio recording of Don talking about his job. It's about 25 minutes long.

    Here's a pic celebrating some of Don's accomplishments.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
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  3. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    Sky... I been awaiting this thread like a kid waiting for Christmas.... As a ten year old lad I was fully consumed by this achievement. Watching all the available programming on TV has really brought those kid memories back to the surface...... I'll share one of them..... I had the kind of grandad you didn't want to have. He was a WW2 Navy Seabee and a wildcat oil man after the war. He was a very big, intimidating and very grizzled man that would give John Wayne a run for his money in the machismo department... The only time I ever saw a tear in that mans eye was when we sat together in his living room and watched Neil step down that ladder..... Ah, the memories of that magical time.... Cannot wait to see your posts this coming week.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
  4. flyers10

    flyers10 Collector of US Coinage

    Thanks for the informative post. Funny I was just talking with my wife yesterday about driving down to Space Center Houston next week.
    Looking forward to your follow on posts.
    Bman33 and Skyman like this.
  5. Bman33

    Bman33 Well-Known Member

    Being an Ike Collector, Apollo 11 fascinates me and is the reason I collect Ikes. In Case you don't know the reverse of the Ike is based off the Apollo 11 mission badge. I was down at the Johnson Space Center a couple of months ago and seeing a real Saturn Five Rocket was amazing.
  6. Skyman

    Skyman Well-Known Member

    Here we go, July 16. On this day 50 years ago in 1969, Apollo 11 launched to the Moon.

    It was estimated that over 1,000,000 people came to view the launch of the spacecraft. It is unknown how many watched on TV, but certainly many millions more.

    At the very tip of the spear, the top of the rocket, were 3 astronauts; Commander (CDR) Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot (CMP) Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Buzz Aldrin. While yesterday I wrote about the hundreds of thousands who supported the mission with their mental and physical labor, today I'm going to write a little about the astronauts.

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "Never was so much, owed by so many, to so few". America had committed to going to the Moon in 1961 after consistently getting it's ass kicked by the Soviet Union in space since 1957. President Kennedy publicly made this commitment soon after the successful sub-orbital flight of Alan Shepard, the first US astronaut in space.

    Alan Shepard was part of the first group of astronauts, a group of 7 astronauts picked in 1959 to fly the Mercury spacecraft and called the Mercury 7. In 1962 NASA selected the next group of astronauts, 9 of them, called the New Nine, or sometimes called the Gemini astronauts. Many times this has been called the most impressive group of astronauts that was ever selected. Armstrong was in this group. In 1963 NASA selected 14 more astronauts, called The Fourteen, or sometimes the Apollo astronauts. Aldrin and Collins came from this group. This was the first group that you didn't have to be a test pilot, although you had to have many hours of high performance jet flight.

    The next group, 6 people chosen in 1965, was based on scientific background, and the scientists did not need to even know how to fly (although they were all taught to fly jet planes when they joined NASA, some of them graduating at the top of their Air Force flight classes). They were called The Scientists. Of these, one was forced to resign very soon after being selected, as his wife filed divorce proceedings, and NASA did not want any messy divorce scandals sullying it's public relations facade. Another resigned in August 1969 when it became obvious to him that the scientists were being consistently put on the back burner for flight assignments, and that he would never fly.

    In 1966 NASA selected another group of 19 pilots and test pilots. They were called, rather tongue in cheek, The New Nineteen. One of this group resigned in 1968 for medical purposes.

    There you have it, for one of the great endeavors in human history, if you count out those that resigned, there were 53 astronauts. Realistically speaking, only astronauts from the first 3 groups had flown by the time of Apollo 11. The astronauts from groups 4 and 5 were in support roles, until Apollo 13.

    Of those 53 astronauts, 8 had died in plane accidents or the Apollo 1 fire, before Apollo 11 launched. That's a slightly greater than 15% chance of death. Seven of those deaths occurred in the first 3 groups (which totaled 30 astronauts), so almost a 25% chance of death in those groups.

    It's surprising when you count up how many astronauts actually flew by the time of Apollo 11. From Alan Shepard's flight through Apollo 11 only 23 astronauts flew. Think about that, going from literally no space flight experience at all, to successfully landing men on the Moon and returning them safely to Earth, took a grand total of 23 astronauts. That is not many people at all. (Even by the end of Apollo 17, the last flight to the Moon, only a grand total of 34 astronauts had flown). Then think about that number of 23 astronauts and compare it to the 8 killed by that time. Not the greatest odds, eh?

    Here are some pieces from my collection that have signatures from those 23 astronauts (well 22 signatures, I'm saving Armstrong for later). The first one (ex: Deke Slayton) is a political cartoon done probably in late 1960 or early 1961 that showed all the problems that the Mercury program was having. Each of the Mercury 7 astronauts signed an astronaut depiction.

    In the above cartoon, one of the signers, Gus Grissom, was killed during the Apollo 1 fire. Another astronaut who was killed in the fire was Ed White II. He had been the first American to walk in space on Gemini 4.

    Gemini was an EXTREMELY important program to the eventual Moon landing. During the program America learned how to perform rendezvous in space, how to do spacewalks, and how to live in space for up to 2 weeks. Here's a picture taken from Gemini 10 looking out at an Agena spacecraft they had just rendezvoused with. This is a new piece to my collection.

    There were 29 astronauts in total that flew on Apollo missions. Of these 15 had flown by Apollo 11. Here's a piece of my collection that I haven't shown before. I was able to win it at auction when it already had 18 signatures on it. At the time of purchase there were 6 astronauts alive who had flown on Apollo who had not signed the poster. One of them essentially doesn't do any signing, and the majority of the others were all in their late 80's, if not their 90's. I figured I would be lucky to get maybe 3 signatures added on, but the good Lord was kind to me, and I got all 5 signatures. So, this piece now has 23 of the 29 Apollo astronauts. I have been lucky enough to meet 15 of them in person, and call one of them my friend. In all my years of collecting space memorabilia, I've only seen two pieces that have more Apollo era signatures on them, one with 24, and one with 26. This is a rare piece.

    As mentioned above, training for and flying spacecraft was a risky business. Not surprisingly the astronauts were unable to get life insurance (except for standard military life insurance for the servicemen). Before a flight the crew would get together and sign a bunch of postal covers that were date stamped on the date of their launch. If the crew were lost during the flight their wives could dribble out the sale of the covers to make ends meet. As such, they got the nickname of life insurance covers. I've got one (ex: Aldrin). You'll note this one is actually dated July 20, 1969. Given that the launch was successful, the person who was holding onto the covers held them until they could be date stamped July 20, 1969, the date of the Moon landing. I bought this the first auction I ever bought any space memorabilia at, and as such, being a Newbie, didn't understand some of the market. It had 5 signatures on it, hence I thought it would be worth more than one with 3 signatures on it. However, since Armstrong is on the back, it is not worth as much as a cover with just three signatures on the front. It's still valuable, just not as much with one with 3 signatures on the front.

    I have a neat Apollo 11 launch hardware piece, but it was also used during Apollo 12, and since that is my favorite Apollo mission (Dick Gordon was my friend), I'll save that for the Apollo 12 50th anniversary thread in November. Since today is the 50th anniversary of the launch, let's close today's post with a picture of the launch, signed by 4 of the Mission Control Directors. I'll be writing about Mission Control on July 20. The actual picture is a composite created from 2 pictures, one of the flag, and one of the Saturn V. You'll see about midway on the rocket a cloud. The cloud was caused by moisture condensation when the rocket went supersonic.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
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  7. Bman33

    Bman33 Well-Known Member


    Thank you for posting these treasures! They are way cool. Keep them coming!
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  8. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    You know... I had seen photographs before of the Saturn V with that cloud around. It almost appears as though it is a second stage separation. I knew it wasn't a separation and wondered what caused that. Thanks for sharing these wonderful treasures with us, Sky!
    Skyman likes this.
  9. masterswimmer

    masterswimmer Well-Known Member


    I'm delighted to be following your thread. Thank you for composing this amazing writeup.

    Like @Randy Abercrombie I was also 10 y/o when Apollo 11 took our bravest to the moon, and thankfully, back home. As were millions of others, I was in awe. I wanted nothing more than to become an astronaut.

    My 10 year old self wrote a handwritten letter to NASA that year. They responded to my letter by sending me 8-1/2"x11" photos of the astronauts and various other space program ephemera. I was elated.

    I'm looking forward to your daily posts with details I never knew about.

    Personal request here: please don't skip any days. Your writing is eloquent, easy to follow, and grammatically pleasant to my senses. If you need a cup of coffee to keep you going with your task at hand, send me a PM with your address and I'll send you a Starbucks giftcard for a week of your favorite blend. :)
    -jeffB, Skyman and Randy Abercrombie like this.
  10. BuffaloHunter

    BuffaloHunter Short of a full herd

    Skyman likes this.
  11. Skyman

    Skyman Well-Known Member

    and @BuffaloHunter

    I'm glad you're enjoying my posts. Unfortunately writing posts of this length takes time and thought. FWIW, my current plans to update this thread are on the following days: July 19, 20, 24. It's both a function of what occurred on those days, and what pieces I have in my collection.

    As mentioned, my favorite Apollo flight was Apollo 12. I plan to do daily posts on basically every day of the 50th anniversary of that 10 day mission in November. That's also the mission where I have many more flown flight items (and signed pictures) than I have for Apollo 11.
  12. masterswimmer

    masterswimmer Well-Known Member

    So what you're saying is that I need to prepare for intermittent cold turkey. :( So be it. :depressed:
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  13. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder

    Terrific thread, Skyman. Thanks so much! Takes me back to 1969, when I was 12 and in awe of the astronauts.
    Randy Abercrombie and Skyman like this.
  14. Skyman

    Skyman Well-Known Member

    Oops, forgot to add there would also be a post on the 21st.

    Also, FWIW, I was 11 at the time of the Moon landing.
  15. Skyman

    Skyman Well-Known Member

    I just realized in rereading my post of today that I had miswritten one point. I cannot go back and edit that post, so I'm editing it here. With regards to the poster with 23 signatures, it has 15 signatures who flew by the time Apollo 11 completed it's mission.

    That is why I wrote in the second sentence in the paragraph about the poster, "...Of these 15 had flown by Apollo 11...".

    There were 3 astronauts, who flew on Apollo missions, who had flown missions by Apollo 11 (inclusive) that did NOT sign the poster, so the sentence should read, "...Of these 29 astronauts, 18 had flown by Apollo 11...".

    Trying to keep all the numbers straight can be a PITA at times.
    Randy Abercrombie likes this.
  16. BuffaloHunter

    BuffaloHunter Short of a full herd

    July 24th just happens to be my birthday. I look forward to reading that days entry in this saga. Unlike others here, I was not born yet when these events transpired (1973), but I still enjoy the history and the magnitude of it all.
    Skyman likes this.
  17. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    The NASA television station has been playing a 50th anniversary program and I just learned something. Shortly after Neil came down the ladder and spoke his infamous words, Buzz then came down and paused at the last step. All these years I thought he was pausing and taking in the impact of the moment. When in fact he was pausing to take care of business!
  18. kSigSteve

    kSigSteve Active Member

    Fascinating thread and memorabilia. Thanks for taking the time to post these treasures @Skyman

    This should be a featured thread.
  19. Skyman

    Skyman Well-Known Member

    Yup. The good old UCD in NASA speak. The Urinary Collection Device... basically a condom with a hole in it, with some surgical tubing at the business end that is ducted to a collection bag.

    Actually one of the major spin-offs from the space program (mainly from the Shuttle era) was the decrease in size and increase in absorptive power of disposable diapers. The design of "Huggies" et al. are our tax dollars at work.
    Randy Abercrombie likes this.
  20. masterswimmer

    masterswimmer Well-Known Member

    @Skyman DON'T. STOP. TALKING (or writing as the case may be).

    Or even better, do a podcast for us!
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  21. Islander80-83

    Islander80-83 Well-Known Member

    Is it true that Neil Armstrong's signature/autograph is the "most" sought after (#1) in all of history?
    Skyman likes this.
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