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If you were to make a list of the top 10 headlines of the 20th century, “man walks on moon” would undoubtedly be on it.
The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission landing on the surface of the moon is Saturday. Along with just about every other newspaper in the world, the Bangor Daily News covered the entire mission, from takeoff to landing to return home.
Here are the front pages from each of those days, along with some of the localized stories the BDN ran during that time. You can zoom in for a closer look at the pages with the document embed at the bottom of this page.
Were you around for the moon landing? Were you in Maine? What do you remember about it? Please share your memories in the comments below.
Though Project Apollo had been operational since 1962, the pre-launch part of the Apollo 11 mission actually began in January 1969, and the various elements of the rockets and module were moved onto launch pad in May. Fueling began on July 15 for an anticipated July 16 launch. Anticipation was at an all-time high.
In news closer to home, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, who was the ranking Republican on the Aeronautical and Space Sciences committee, was one of a number of governmental officials to have their names etched on a silicon disc to be placed on the surface of the moon. Smith did not attend the launch at Cape Canaveral, though two other members of Maine’s congressional delegation — Sen. Edmund Muskie and Rep. Peter Kyros — did.
At 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, July 16, the Apollo 11 modules, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, lifted off from Cape Canaveral, powered by a Saturn V rocket. More than 1 million people watched from the beaches and roads in Florida, and another estimated 25 million people in the U.S alone watched the launch on television.
In Maine, it was a sweltering, hot weekend, with temperatures statewide soaring into the 90s. The BDN noted that a satellite tracking station in the remote western Maine town of Andover played a key role in the Apollo 11 launch — the station was a relay point for the communications between mission control and the module once it left the atmosphere.
It took about three days for Apollo 11 to reach the moon. On July 18 and 19, as the spacecraft was hurtling away from Earth, the trip continued to make front page news worldwide, including in the BDN. On July 18, Maine Gov. Kenneth Curtis declared Monday, July 21 as “Moon Day” — a state holiday with all non-essential government offices and banks closed. Other governors and President Nixon also proclaimed that day as Moon Day.
At 10:56 p.m. on Sunday, July 20, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the surface of the moon, followed shortly afterward by Buzz Aldrin. An estimated 600 million people around the world watched the historic event.
The BDN’s local story collected reactions from around the state, which ranged from a Houlton resident marveling at the sheer magnitude of the event to a Dexter woman worrying that going to the moon was against God’s will. The BDN also interviewed local children, and though that story ran in the following day’s paper, it showcased a surprising breadth of opinion on the matter.
On the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, in 2009, the BDN again asked readers for their memories of the day, collected in a story that ran on July 18 of that year.
The astronauts only spent a few hours on the actual surface of the moon, and the spacecraft’s lunar module, called Eagle, only spent about 15 hours in total. At 5:35 p.m. Eastern time, the Eagle docked with Columbia, the spacecraft’s command and service module, and after transferring all the moon rocks collected by the team, the lunar module was jettisoned and the crew began the flight back to Earth.
After some nail-biting days, at 12:50 p.m. on July 24, Columbia splashed down in the middle of the Pacific Ocean near the U.S. territory of Wake Island, eight days, three hours and 18 minutes after it initially left Earth. The astronauts went into quarantine for 17 days, emerging on Aug. 10. On Aug. 13, they began several months of parades, state dinners and other celebrations of the momentous feat.