Robson Ranch’s Friends of the Library (FOL) celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with two days of “Out-of-This-World” events on August 14 and 15. First, 86 people watched the movie In the Shadow of the Moon with its unique format, having no narration. It was filmed entirely with commentary from astronauts that had actually gone to the moon, sharing emotions and impacts on their lives as well as anecdotes about scary and humorous things they experienced along the way. The movie was followed the next day (with 75 attending) by a discussion of James Donovan’s recent book, Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11.
Discussion of the book and actual events was led by a panel of Robson residents, all having NASA or Apollo experience. Klaus Dannenberg gave an overview of the space race and the Apollo program. Then he presented some insights into the Saturn V booster followed by four other Robson residents commenting on their respective roles in the space program. Klaus’ unique perspectives came since his dad Konrad was part of Wernher von Braun’s rocket team that came to the U.S. from Germany after World War II and was also the Saturn program manager for a time. Klaus was personally involved in Saturn flight control in his first job. Joe Bono, a participant in the lunar module program at Grumman in his first job, discussed the challenge, complexity, and risks involved in the lunar module rendezvous and landing efforts, including some on the backside of the moon. Ann Patterson lightened things up by relating many of her personal experiences with astronaut training at Johnson Space Flight Center (mostly humorous but with some serious stuff too). Ron Zimm, a Langley Research Center employee in his first job, amazed the audience with the progress in instrumentation and testing throughout the Apollo program. Finally, Gary Tong related his role as a “bystander to history” while serving in the Navy on the USS Hornet during the Pacific Ocean recovery after splashdown. The book discussion emphasized the book’s strengths in setting the scene with international and interagency politics as well as personal stories of astronaut escapades.
These events were more special with participation by Steve and Rosemary Simecek’s granddaughter, Jacey Allen, a next generation aerospace engineer at the University of Missouri! She’s starting her career with a bang having already interned in aerospace jobs for two summers, including one at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The future of our nation is in good hands!
During the social afterwards in the Boardroom, panelists provided additional insights and anecdotes from their experiences for well over the planned hour. Plus, we had Moon Pies while enjoying Happy Hour pricing, even on moon beer! It was a fun collaboration supporting an effort that built national unity, even if it happened 50 years ago!
If you missed it, you missed a good time and a couple of afternoons well spent!