An estimated 125 to 150 million Americans watched the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969. Almost half of the country's 57 million televisions were catered to CBS, to Walter Cronkite, with former astronaut Wally Schirra at his side.
"Oh boy!" Said Cronkite, after the eagle had landed in the sea of rest. "Wally, say something, I'm speechless!"
This moment without Walter? Unthinkable. But nothing could have spoken louder than his little spontaneous gesture, his awe, far more powerful than today's HD histrionics and hand-jive.
This was the most trusted man in America, a tough, skeptical reporter who had stared at World War II death, suddenly overwhelmed by what had just happened. A substitute for you, for me.
"How easy these words are to roll us now: man on the moon, a walk on the moon, and yet to say the words and just stop for a moment to think about it still leaves a shiver and go off the old spine, "he said.
The American flag on the moon. It had to be understood in the context of the Cold War as our belated answer to the Russians, who first sent a satellite into space.
In 1969, we were as divided over the Vietnam War and civil rights as we are today. The moon landing? We were able to celebrate all .
Cronkite said, "The date is now indelible, it will be remembered as long as man survives."
To CBS News & # 39; reporting on the landing of Apollo 11 and the capture of the astronauts & # 39; To see her first steps, click on the video player below.
I look now at the old reporting and see such innocence, such optimism. Where is it going? Has the technology developed so fast in 50 years that we have forgotten the immensity of the achievement?
Walter Cronkite never did this. He was an apologetic booster of the space program.
Here is Walter showing a device to teach astronauts to walk on the moon:
In 1985, CBS filed one of four names when NASA intended to send a journalist into space. (Mine too!)
A year later, following the crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the project was discontinued. Until then, Walter had made it to the final with 70 years. I have no doubt that Walter Cronkite would have launched a rocket into the sky if this mission had been advanced in one way or another.
A story by Amy Wall.
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