Apollo 11 at 50 years: Those who made landing on the moon a reality

I’ve always said that the key to success is to surround yourself with amazing people.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in this life to do that very thing–and certainly one of those amazing people is my friend, George Knudsen (W4GCK).

You see, besides being a ham, devoted radio enthusiast, and all around good guy, fifty years ago George was an integral part of putting Apollo 11 on the moon. George’s team was responsible for Apollo 11’s second stage.

The S-II second stage is moved into position for mating with the S-IC first stage. (Source: NASA)

Our local ABC affiliate, WLOS, featured George today:

Click here to view the video on WLOS.

Every time I’m around George, I pick his brain about the Apollo 11 days–his inside stories fascinate me. One thing that always sticks in my mind is the Esprit De Corps his team and everyone–literally everyone from the astronauts to the maintenance crew–on the mission experienced.

They had an outrageous goal and an outrageous timeline, yet they still managed to make it happen.

If you’d like to learn more about George, I’d highly recommend listening to his in-depth interview on the excellent omega tau podcast.

Here’s a description:

George Knudsen started working in 1958 on the Redstone missile, and moved on to working on the Atlas ICBM. Later he worked on the Saturn 5 launch vehicle, where he was responsible for the fuel tanks. He was on the launch team at Cape Canaveral for various Apollo missions. In this episode [we] talk with George about his work in this fascinating period of science and engineering history.

Click here to listen via the omega tau site.

omega tau, hosted by Markus Völter, covers a wide variety of topics from engineering and science. It’s one of my favorite podcasts, so I would encourage you to not only listen to this episode, but subscribe to the podcast.

Please comment with your Apollo 11 stories!

Apollo 11 and all of the missions leading up to and following it involved thousands upon thousands of skilled workers and stakeholders. Please comment if you or someone in your life played a role in any of these missions.

Do you remember Apollo 11? What was it like for you that amazing day?

Please comment!

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5 thoughts on “Apollo 11 at 50 years: Those who made landing on the moon a reality

  1. Drew Supko

    I was a young engineering aide working for Grumman Aerospace 50 years ago. The group I worked in was the support group for the descent stage of the LM. There were a number of brilliant minds in that group. I remember admiring the engineers that traveled to White Sands test area to test the rocket motors for the LM. I was still living at home and was watching the commentary when the LM descended to the Moon’s surface. When I heard Neil Armstrong report “contact light”, I got really excited and told my folks this was a six foot pole extending from the bottom of the LM and would turn on a light when it touched the surface of the Moon! I left Grumman in 1970 to continue my education. Hard to believe that 50 years have passed! Hope some other “Propulsion group” folks see this and also comment!

  2. 13dka

    I was only 4 years old and I think I was a bit upset about my mom waking me up and hauling me into the living room to watch man setting foot on the moon around 4:00am (yawn!) local. I actually remember seeing some blurry blobs on the B/W TV but I didn’t really understand what I was seeing there, I was too young to appreciate the importance of the moment. It could have been the moon landing on us, I was tired and soon fell asleep again. But somehow that TV image, the short moment I was watching and the situation at home was burned into my memory and set to “read-only” status, maybe because I understood that the rest of the family was very exited about it, and so I got to appreciate what my parents tried to do much later.

    Much, much later I could watch it all again (a TV station is rebroadcasting the entire German TV live reporting on the event at night every now and then), I could e.g. listen to a realtime recording of the entire radio communication and learn everything I wanted to know about it much better. In fact, I still want to know everything about it, so I appreciate the link to the podcast with George!

  3. Mark

    I was just six years old at the time. I remember my Dad waking us up so we could watch the landing on TV, though don’t really remember the broadcast itself. It was only later missions, particularly with the lunar rover that really stick in my mind.

    Obviously it was driven by national rivalries at the time, and cost a vast amount of money, but it seems a shame humans have gone no further than low Earth orbit since then.


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