The Eagle Has Landed–Wright Brothers Monument Viewing Party Celebrates 50th Anniversary

By on July 21, 2019

 

Apollo 11 touchdown as animated by CBS in their 1969 broadcast. Photo, Kip Tabb

Apollo 11 touchdown as animated by CBS in their 1969 broadcast. Photo, Kip Tabb

There was a moon landing viewing party last night at the Wright Brothers Monument to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

For many of the few hundred people gathered to watch legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite and astronaut Wally Schirra calmly and methodically walk an anxious world through the intricacies of landing on the moon, it was moment to relive history. For others it was chance to touch a pivotal point in time.

For everyone who was at the Wright Brothers Monument, though, hearing Neil Armstrong tell Houston, “The Eagle has landed. The Eagle is at Tranquility base,” it was an emotional moment.

Even today, watching, or rewatching the descent to touchdown and hearing those words, the tension is palpable.Yet as emotional as it was last night, as it was happening 50 years ago, the feeling of national and worldwide pride in a remarkable accomplishment of humanity was unmistakable.

When Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin confirmed they were on the surface of the moon, Schirra wiped tears of joy from his eyes. Walter Cronkite, normally unflappable and calm in even the most trying of conditions, removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes.

By the standards of today, the live television images beamed back to earth from the moon seem primitive. All of them are in black and white; activity can be see, but the contrast and focus never seem right.

Yet as unclear or unfocussed as those images may have been, in 1969 that too was part of the miracle—that we, those of us bound to earth—could witness this pivotal event in real time. That we saw and heard Armstrong say, “That’s one small step for (a) man and one giant leap for mankind,” knowing that we were witnessing history as it happened.

Last night was a great reminder of how important an institution like the Wright Brothers Monument is. The viewing party was a modern reenactment of an event that was held on the Monument grounds on July 20, 1969. At that time the technology did not exist to project a television broadcast from a computer onto a giant screen. Instead the National Park Service brought in 50 televisions so the Outer Banks could watch with the rest of the world as the Eagle landed.


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