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NASA employee talks having 'ring-side seat' to history of Apollo 11 mission
On July 16th, the entire space community will come together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which put the first man on the moon. Florida's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral will be honoring this landmark occasion with events, special exhibits and archival footage from that historic day in 1969. The center's Apollo/Saturn V Center is transporting the site and its visitors back to the late 1960s to give folks a feel of what that momentous day was like. While it's an important event to be celebrated, it’s also a moment of reflection for the people who actually had a hand in the Apollo Program. People like Lamar Russell, a retired NASA employee, who now serves as a volunteer docent at Kennedy Space Center’s museum to the Apollo and Saturn programs. His career covered each and every Apollo mission, from 7 to 17. “I had a ring-side seat on history,” Russell said. “We were working to make history. To help all the people we were with.” The Apollo program allowed 12 astronauts to walk on the moon. It all began with Apollo 11, which launched July 16, 1969, and saw our first lunar landing on July 20, 1969. “I was in my backyard during the landing, and I looked up at the moon and I remember thinking ‘there’s footprints on the moon and guys like me help put them there,'" he said. The Apollo/Saturn V Center shows off a Saturn V rocket, one that was not only ready for launch but also the very rocket that would have been used on Apollo 18 before President Nixon ended the program back in the mid-1970s. However, what stood out to Lamar was how special the rocket in the Apollo 11 mission knew it would be. “The Saturn V’s had different personalities," Russell said. "They had different quirks, different problems that we had to solve on the way to the pad and during the countdowns. Apollo 11 was a perfect vehicle.” That "perfect" rocket continues to pave the way for future space exploration. So as we get ready to eventually make our way back to the moon, don’t be surprised to see rocket styles that more closely resemble smaller versions of these Saturn V's or “moon rockets." However, the current phase of space vehicles, like SpaceX's Falcon rockets, are more economical and ideal for re-use as we head towards deeper space exploration. With Apollo 11’s golden anniversary just around the corner, you can check out all the new enhancements being made to the Apollo/Saturn V center throughout the year at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.