Small step, giant memories: Neil Armstrong's moonwalk remembered

The Apollo Mission Control Room has been recreated at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston
The Apollo Mission Control Room has been recreated at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston

Half a century has passed—but the moment Moon pioneer Neil Armstrong took his historic first step on the lunar surface is etched in the memories of those who tuned in.

The grainy pictures coming back on the night of July 20, 1969, from a quarter of a million miles (380,000 kilometres) away fascinated viewers young and old.

AFP spoke to some, who recalled their joy and emotion, including Dafydd Williams, now a Canadian astronaut with NASA who has twice been into space—in 1998 and 2007 but who was a schoolboy back then.

DAFYDD WILLIAMS

"It was a pretty remarkable day. The sixties was this decade of exploration and the highlight of the decade was humans walking on the surface of the Moon.

"If you were alive at that time, everybody remembers where they were.

"I was fifteen years old at the time, at home watching it with my family glued to the television set, which was black and white because we didn't have money to afford a colour TV.

"It changed the course of history and for me it demonstrated the fact that the seemingly impossible is actually possible.

"Watching NASA going from never having flown humans in space in 1960 to have humans walking on the surface of the Moon in 1969... what an incredible decade!"

Canadian astronaut Dafydd Williams says the moon landing "changed the course of history"
Canadian astronaut Dafydd Williams says the moon landing "changed the course of history"

JACKIE STEWART

Formula One champion Stewart was a friend of Armstrong and also of Eugene Cernan, the last man to date to walk on the Moon in December 1972.

"I was in the Playboy Club in New York with Roman Polanski and my wife Helen. I knew a lot of the astronauts because they were coming to see Formula One and Indycar races. I was blown away by what I was seeing," said Stewart, who with his son Mark produced a 2014 documentary, "Last Man on the Moon."

BRIGITTE BARDOT

"I was in Normandy on that night of July 20-21,1969. I was shooting the Bear and the Doll," recalled the French screen icon.

British former F1 driver Jackie Stewart recalls he was "blown away" by the emotion of the Americans'  achievement—and
British former F1 driver Jackie Stewart recalls he was "blown away" by the emotion of the Americans' achievement—and later produced a documentary "Last Man on the Moon with his son

"I watched this miracle without really believing it, it was so extraordinary, unachievable—and yet they did it.

"Human genius can reach the divine."

CLAUDIA CARDINALE

The Italian actress, then aged 31, has hazy memories of exactly where she was when she saw the broadcast.

But "a few months later, Neil Armstrong, who was an amateur trumpeter, dropped by for a house party (in the Rome countryside), invited by Franco Cristaldi," Cardinale's first husband.

Brigitte Bardot, seen in Paris in 1966, dubbed the landing a "miracle"
Brigitte Bardot, seen in Paris in 1966, dubbed the landing a "miracle"

"My brothers accompanied. We'd hired two trumpets—one got bent by Neil in a state of inebriated joy."

PIERRE CARDIN

"I was on the Champs-Elysees, with thousands of people, waiting for the dream to become reality," said the fashion designer, then 47, now 96.

"When Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon I felt an immense satisfaction. We were all awaiting news and this triumph was greeted with a shriek of joy shared by the thousands of people around me.

"Nobody believed (it could happen) a few years earlier but I always was sure it would come to pass. It was a great leap forward for humanity," said Cardin, who later would meet Armstrong and mission colleague Buzz Aldrin.

Claudia Cardinale says she remembers above all Armstrong dropping in some months later for a party in the Rome countryside
Claudia Cardinale says she remembers above all Armstrong dropping in some months later for a party in the Rome countryside

BERTRAND PICCARD

The Swiss psychiatrist and aviator was 11 at the time and recalled how "I was lucky enough to be invited to Cape Kennedy to watch the rocket take off on July 16 as my father worked for NASA.

"On July 20, I was at a restaurant with my family at Palm Beach, Florida, when a NASA official tipped off my mother that we had to hurry up and get back as the astronauts leaving (the module) had been brought forward two hours.

"We rushed home as quickly as we could. Shortly beforehand, my father had bought a television especially for the occasion.

"I remember the first step as if it were yesterday. I had the impression I was watching the most important event in the history of humanity. I still think so...

French Formula One star Alain Prost, 14 at the time, says the landing was a moment which "always stays with you"
French Formula One star Alain Prost, 14 at the time, says the landing was a moment which "always stays with you"

BORIS VOLYNOV

Volynov was a 34-year-old Russian cosmonaut who saw his country, after taking an early lead in the space race, beaten to the Moon by the Americans.

"Of course we felt a certain rancour as we had our own Moon programme. I was myself in training to walk in lunar gravitation conditions. We had all dreamed of one day walking on the Moon," said Volynov, who flew on two Soyuz missions.

"We feared the Americans were getting ahead of us as our programme was losing momentum," said Volynov, adding that two competing Russian programmes meant that "we ended up being overtaken."

He later met Armstrong.

  • Boris Volynov was a contemporary of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, said Russians soon realised they had been overtaken in
    Boris Volynov was a contemporary of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, said Russians soon realised they had been overtaken in the space race but later became friends with Armstrong
  • French musician Jean-Michel Jarre sees the Apollo 11 mission as marking the start of the conquest of space and also the birth of
    French musician Jean-Michel Jarre sees the Apollo 11 mission as marking the start of the conquest of space and also the birth of pop culture

"We quickly became friends, communicating via a Soviet translator. The pictures of us saluting one another were only declassified after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

ALAIN PROST

French four-time Formula One champion Prost was just 14 when Armstrong made his great leap but "it's one of those memories which always stay with you.

"My parents had a little studio at Cannes and we were on holiday. I still recall that day so clearly—I remember looking at the TV and the Moon simultaneously and saying to myself 'what's going on?'

"It's a crazy memory —- you felt something is happening. At the time we thought it was totally impossible."

French designer Pierre Cardin saluted "a great leap forward for humanity"
French designer Pierre Cardin saluted "a great leap forward for humanity"

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE

The composer of electronic music watched the broadcast live and recalls "celebrating the era when we had a vision and an appetite for the future—it was an absolute inspiration for musicians, filmmakers and writers. Pop culture was born at the same time as the beginning of the conquest of space."


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Jul 08, 2019
Times past - Neil Armstrong - That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

For little did these moon walkers
of half a century ago
realise there would be no other moon walkers to walk our moon
for these moon walkers are a dying breed
fading into these mists of time
as these billions of earthlings
have lost this knowledge of centuries past
fore there will never be another moon walker
for we earthlings yearn for our past
our moon walkers
our moon landers
our space shuttle
our concord
for with our concord we flew to these Americas and back for tea
through these sunsets of fleeting times

We sit at the setting of our sun by our babbling brooks under our bridges contemplating times past

Jul 09, 2019
Colonel Buzz Aldrin was also present at the first moon landing of 20 July 1969, the second human to set foot on the Lunar regolith. He is close to 90 years of age. Somehow, he seems to be not as popular as Neil Armstrong even though both did as much for the mission.

https://buzzaldrin.com

Jul 09, 2019
To be one of the few

Nigh on 90 years of age and one of the few must be a strange sensation indeed
in this high tech advanced world
all of which did not exist when Colonel Buzz Aldrin set foot on our Moonchine half a century ago
when he set foot on our Moonchine regolith
these few must surely have imagined this was the future to be
for to reach this grand old age of four score and ten
Colonel Buzz Aldrin
will have expected to take his last memorable trip
with all the millions of tourists on our Moonchine

p.s. tis a sad reflection, SEU

Jul 10, 2019
I hope for Buzz Aldrin to have at least another 20 good years. By 110 I think that he will be ready to go meet his Maker. A job well done.
The Millennials have never known the thrill of sitting in front of the telly, anxiously awaiting the moment of that final step and....he has one foot on the Moon. Hip Hip Hurrah, we cried. And some even had tears of joy at the amazing sight.
The babies who were born that year of 1969 never knew of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. Not until they were in school years later were they aware of what had happened that July day.
Those babies who were born that July 20th would be almost 50 years old now. Perhaps they will know of another manned mission to the Moon before they are too old to care, and they can sit in front of the telly and shout, Hip Hip Hurrah, as the next young men (and women) set foot on the Moon regolith again. "One step for a man, one giant leap for mankind".

Jul 10, 2019
Those were the days
SEU> Those babies who were born that July 20th would be almost 50 years old now. Perhaps they will know of another manned mission to the Moon before they are too old to care

There might be nothing that is financially viable to transport back to earth
For this moon is a barren featureless environment
For to live on this moon means living in underground massive shopping centre apartment working complex's
For we cannot live on this Moonchine nor do we want to
For to live in underground complex's we can do that at home and go the beach after work in the open air
So despite this hellish existence locked underground which none will accept
We should be able to visit our Moonchine in millions of tourist's a day

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