50 years since Apollo 11 moon mission launched

From time immemorial civilizations have fantasized about the moon.

Filmmakers envisioned it as a far off planet worthy of comedy but visionaries saw it as a reachable star.

I'll never forget the deafening roar of the rocket and the shaking of the ground, the chill that consumed my body in the 90 degree heat as I watched the giant Saturn Five rocket slowly rise into the blue Florida sky. The crowd cheering "Go baby go!"

I was among 3,500 journalists recording a moment in history: America was on the way to the moon.

Four days later half a billion people world wide held their breath, watching on television as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

That giant leap was a buoyant moment for thousands of New Yorkers who played an integral role in getting Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon.

"The 50th anniversary shines spotlight on Long Island," said Andrew Parton, the President of the Cradle of Aviation Museum.

"We had 7,000 workers who designed and building every lunar module that went to the moon."

The Cradle of Aviation museum in Garden City has the largest collection of artifacts from the Apollo moon landing missions, including an actual lunar lander that was built for the Apollo 19 mission that never flew.

"It's a real lunar module designed to go to the moon. It's amazing that this was built with 1960s technology and it worked perfectly every time," said Joshua Stoff, the museum's curator.

Armstrong and Aldrin were leaving their mark on the moon at a time America needed a diversion from other stories dominating the news that summer of 1969. The war was raging in Vietnam, Charles Manson and his drug-crazed followers were committing mass murders in California. Senator Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, killing his female passenger.

It was also a summer of free spirit at Woodstock and a time the Mets were heading for their first World Series. But it was Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins who piloted the mothership Columbia, who were America's newest heroes.

That historic launch 50 years ago and the moon landing paved the way for future space exploration and opened the door to countless discoveries. This week is a celebration of American technology, off a feat that united people all over the world.

We all had reason to feel proud. America had gone to the moon.

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