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Archive for July, 2019

Featured here is a breathtaking photograph of Apollo 11 lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969. This past week marked the 50th anniversary of one of America’s crowning achievements and fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s wish to land a man on the moon by the end of that decade. I was fortunate to see the Space Shuttle launch at night back in 1989, but it must have been something else to see a Saturn V rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. The Saturn V was the most powerful machine that mankind has ever built piercing the sky at 6,000 mph and 8 million pounds of thrust. You can see the Saturn V breaking the sound barrier and going supersonic in this photograph. ‘First Man’ is an excellent portrayal of the launch, but nothing can compare to the real thing.

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Pittsburgh and many of its major companies and talented citizens during the late 60’s played a historical and pivotal role in the Apollo 11 moon landing. The command module Columbia which ferried the astronauts from the Earth to the lunar orbit had been developed and built by North American Rockwell, a Pittsburgh-based aerospace firm. The lunar module Eagle had touched down on shock-absorbing legs built by Alcoa which also designed the aluminum hatch door. Clark McClelland, a retired astronaut from Pittsburgh designed and built launch towers for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. McClelland is also known for designing the famous Apollo 11 patch the astronauts wore on their spacesuits. The Apollo 11 emblem features an American bald eagle circling the Moon and the Sea of Tranquility where the Apollo 11 astronauts landed with the Earth shown in the background. Commander Neil Armstrong planted the American flag using a special pole designed by Pittsburgher, Jack Kinzler who was a NASA engineer and is credited with the lunar flag assembly. Bruce Hapke who was a University of Pittsburgh professor of geology and planetary science worked at the Allegheny Observatory and Buhl Science Center. His knowledge of the surface of the moon, which NASA was unaware of at the time led to the design of astronaut boots, landing pads and the moon rovers which would roll on its surface. Westinghouse Electric Co. cameras broadcast the moment to 600 million people around the world.

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First Man Apollo 11 Launch Scene

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