45 years ago: Man lands on the moon with help from NASA Langley

Hampton, Va. – 45 years ago, man landed on the moon.

But before Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins made history, some of their trainig was done in our own backyard, at the Lunar Landing Research Facility at NASA Langley.

“Due to several little problems, Neil Armstrong did have to take over and fly it down manually for the last 500 feet.  So we were glad that he had some real world practice,” said Al Ragsdale, a NASA simulation engineer.

Ragsdale worked closely with the astronauts back in the 1960s, pre-flying simulators every morning for the Apollo 11 crew at the Johnson Space Center in Texas.

“I was only 25 then, so I mean these guys were like heroes. So I was a little bit awed by them,” said Ragsdale.

But it’s at NASA Langley where Armstrong and Aldrin got what they needed to prepare for the final feet of the lunar landing mission – a big challenge – before defying all odds and speculation on their trip to the moon.

“Neil Armstrong I think said it best – that it would have been hard to fake it than it was to do it. People don’t realize the simple computers we had.  We went to the moon with a computer with 72k of memory.  Not megabytes – 72,000 bytes of memory, which a calculator has more than that now. But we went to the moon and back with that simple computer,” said Ragsdale.

It’s a trip 45 years ago that many people thought would never happen.

“What surprised me was that Kennedy said we were going to be on the moon by 1970, and he said that right after I graduated from high school in ’61.  And in ’69, eight years later, we did it and that really still boggles my mind that we did it and it worked,” said Ragsdale about an historic mission that has roots right here in Hampton Roads.

The first manned lunar landing occurred on July 20, 1969.

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