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The man who helped us get to the moon

12/18/2019 2:22:14 PM

By Miranda Holloway and Kim Schmidt

He called himself “a voice in the wilderness.” He sat in conference rooms filled with scientists who ridiculed his ideas. But John Houbolt was going to be heard. And we were going to land on the moon.

All around the world, people gathered to watch or to listen. A huge screen was erected in Central Park to broadcast the event. Soldiers in Vietnam huddled around transistor radios. People watched on televisions through store display windows, in bars and living rooms and conference rooms.

With collective anticipation, they listened to the staticky din of the communication between the Apollo 11 astronauts and Mission Control; they watched the first grainy images of the moon’s surface appear before them.

Of course, there was one room in particular where the men and women gathered watched more intently as the Apollo 11 astronauts carefully landed the lunar module on the moon’s surface.

Mission Control.

After astronaut Neil Armstrong’s legendary announcement that the Eagle had landed, Houston immediately replied: “You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again.”

Indeed, the entire world began to breathe again.

John C. Houbolt (BS 40, MS 42), was in Mission Control that day, seated among the mid-century industrial consoles. Ashtrays and coffee cups were scattered on the desktops, awash with the soft blue glow of the computer screens.