When Neil Armstrong took that first step off Apollo 11 onto the surface of the moon July 20, 1969, it was a seminal moment for the United States.
Events around Fort Bend County, such as the 50th anniversary festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the George Memorial Library in Richmond, will commemorate the event. It also holds a special place in the memories of some of the county’s residents.
Ralph Youngblood, a 75-year-old Sugar Land resident, watched the landing on an old black-and-white TV given to his family as a gift.
“Our kids were very young at that time, but we sat them in front of the TV, too,” he said. “We thought the modern times had come, and that science had reached the ultimate peak.”
Fellow Sugar Land resident Jack Daniels, a native Texan who was teaching at the University of Southern Mississippi at the time of the landing, said the space program represented a beacon of hope in a dark time for the U.S. after the 1968 assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
“There was a spirit of optimism here with the space program – at that time, we were exhilarated by it,” he said. “Amidst all of that was the success of the space program. In spite of the tragic happenings, we could still see reason for optimism, which was big.”
As he remembered watching live with his family, Daniels could only smile.
“There’s so many songs written about the moon, and so many optimistic thoughts about it – it was unbelievable, it was awe-inspiring. We had accomplished something Russia had not accomplished,” he said. “All I can say is that it was an astonishing sight. To witness this live, and know that Houston played a part in it, was a great feeling. I’m a Texan, and that’s always filled me with pride.”
Youngblood later became connected to the historic event in more ways than one. Two years after the Apollo 11 landing, he said his family moved to Dickinson, where many of NASA’s workers resided.
Gene Kranz – NASA’s second Chief Flight Director who directed many missions, including the Apollo 11 landing – was a neighbor.
“My wife took part in a vegetable class with his wife – they would go get vegetables together, and his kids played with my kids. It was routine to us. My son-in-law’s father worked for NASA and knew all the astronauts,” Youngblood said. “It seemed routine back then, because they were just folks in the neighborhood. Looking back, it surprises you that it was so historic.”
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