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Moon walk recalled with pride

Monday marks 40th anniversary of historic moon landing

Posted: July 18, 2009 9:46 p.m.
Updated: July 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Ron Ippolito, of Canyon Country, still remembers where he was the day men first landed on the moon.

He was serving in Vietnam 40 years ago Monday when he heard the news over a hand-held radio.

Ippolito said he was overcome with joy and pride.

"It was an incredible feeling. I've always felt patriotic, and to be working with a Vietnamese colleague at the time made me proud of what our country had accomplished. To be able to share that with others was amazing." he said.

It was July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong made the historic first step from Apollo 11's landing craft, the Eagle, onto the surface of the moon.

It was an epic day for American culture; viewers worldwide were glued to their TV sets watching a model of what was occurring on the moon's surface.

It was a triumph for American technology, symbolizing progress and a sense of victory that Americans fully embraced.

Down the 210 Freeway in Pasadena is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a fixture since the heyday of NASA's space program and longtime partner with the space agency. JPL played a major role in the race to the moon.

Gary Weber, a mechanical engineering supervisor at JPL during the moon landing, remembers the time fondly.

"During the landing I was out in the desert repairing an old car engine," Weber recalled.

"It was so hot at the time it was almost unbearable to be outside during the day, even in the shade.

"When it (the Eagle) landed, we were thrilled to death. I watched the landing on a small TV in the basement of a friend's house," he said.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's major contribution to the moon landing came in the form of the development of robotic spacecraft.
The robotic Rangers and Surveyors provided information that made it possible for Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. to achieve success.

"I was very extremely proud because I was deeply involved in the space program," Weber said.

"Even though JPL worked with all unmanned crafts, we were involved with NASA. Everybody at JPL shared in the excitement. It was an amazing thing," he said.

Ippolito agreed.

"A man landing on the moon was unheard of," he said. "Nobody ever thought it was ever going to happen."

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