Neil Armstrong, first moon landing remembered locally

Neil Armstrong, first moon landing remembered locally

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. Many people in Hawaii remembered him -- and where they were when that historic event occurred.

Armstrong died Saturday at the age of 82. His family said he died due to complications from heart bypass surgery earlier this month.

University of Hawaii emeritus professor of geophysics Fred Duennebier was a 25-year-old graduate student who helped in the development of a seismometer that was brought to the moon. "I was a member of the seismic teams looking for moon quakes," he said. "And the seismometer was one of the few instruments that they had on Apollo 11. So it was quite an exciting trip, especially for a lowly graduate student."

Duennebier watched the landing in the same building where Mission Control was located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "The room was kind of a big auditorium, and we just had a tiny television in the front of the auditorium that we could actually watch the landing from," he said.

Duennebier met the crew of Apollo 15, but never met Armstrong in person. But he believes Armstrong was the right astronaut to be the first one on the moon.

"He was the perfect person to do it, I believe, because he was a very gentle person and didn't go for the limelight at all," said Duennebier. "Very few people, I think, realized he was still alive, even."

"He was assigned in a regular rotation to Apollo 11, so it wasn't like that said down and said out of all this field of, say, 20 astronauts, this is the one we want to be the first man on the moon," said Mike Shanahan of the Bishop Museum and Planetarium. At the time of the landing, he was a teenager, cutting the grass of a neighbor's lawn just outside Worchester, Mass. His neighbor made him come inside to watch the landing on television. The event helped Shanahan become interested in space science.

"Neil Armstrong was himself an Eagle Scout, and it was in the Boy Scouts that I had a scout master who taught us astronomy, and who got us excited about how far away things are and how vast the cosmos is," said Shanahan.

Shanahan even got to meet the astronaut while he was on the staff of a museum in Seattle. "I got to shake his hand, yes," he said, holding up his right hand. "This hand. One time. One minute."

Armstrong and fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin -- the second man on the moon -- and Mike Collins made their first land fall on Oahu after their capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Their quarantine unit arrived at Pearl Harbor aboard the recovery vessel, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, on their way back to Houston.

Kailua resident Ellie Tepper was working at San Francisco State College in July 1969. "We watched that moon landing. We'll never forget those famous words -- 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,'" she said, quoting Armstrong's first words from the surface of the moon, as she left the Bishop Museum Planetarium Saturday. She was holding the hand of her six-year-old granddaughter, Isabella, who'll be learning about the moon landing in her history class.

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