NASA Wallops Flight Facility's Role in Apollo 11 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

NASA Wallops Flight Facility's Role in Apollo 11

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WALLOPS ISLAND MD-Fifty years ago today on July 20, 1969, the United State's made history as the first country to ever put humans on the moon. 

According to reports at the time, an estimated 650 million people watched as Neil Armstrong made "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind," as he walked across the moon's surface. 

Apollo 11 was a major global accomplishment, and a huge advancement for science and engineering.

The mission was initially launched from Cape Kennedy in Florida on July 16, and with courage and great skill, four days later the historic first steps were made by Armstrong, and then Aldrin shortly after.

According to NASA, Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon's surface. 

They collected soil and rock samples, set up experiments, planted an American flag, and left behind medallions honoring the Apollo 1 crew and a plaque saying, "We come in peace for all mankind."

The mission was set fourth by President John F. Kennedy's goal he set on May 25, 1961 before a joint session of congress. 

In his speech the President said, "First, I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth," he said. 

And we did. But the mission required the contributions of a lot of engineers, scientists and mathematicians nationwide--including those at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Accomack County. 

According to Keith Koehler, a Communication's Director at Wallop's, testing occurred on the facility during 1959-61 prior to Apollo 11. 

"We started looking at it really in the 50's, with Wernher von Braun and the idea of going to the moon and then of course John F. Kennedy and his great speech challenged us to put people on the moon and return them safely," Koehler said. 

These tests paved the way for Project Mercury, NASA's manned spaceflight program.

According to Koehler, these tests were crucial in the space race.

Some of which included, "A lot of the crew capsules during the Mercury days, the escape system, the aerodynamic systems, trying to determine the pressures on the capsules so that the switches could put out the parachutes at the right time when they were coming back," he said.

All of that work was done here at Wallops," he said.



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