Historic Moment when Apollo Astronauts Assemble for 50th Anniversary

Apollo Astronaut 50th Anniversary Dinner – June 6, 2019

Photo Credits to Rod Leonhard, Cradle of Aviation Museum. Captions below release. 

See taped presentation that appeared on Facebook Live on June 6th. 


Apollo Astronauts, Flight Directors, and Grumman workers reunited at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on June 6th in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Apollo.

Garden City, NY – June 7, 2019- On July 20, 1969, 600 million people joined together to universally witness and experience one of the greatest moments in history; man landing on the moon.  On June 6, 2019, a sold out crowd of over 800 guests joined together at the Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center in Garden City, NY with five Apollo Astronauts, two Apollo flight directors and dozens of Grumman Workers to remember, reflect and re-experience the glory of Apollo. MC’d by ABC weatherman and space enthusiast, Lee Goldberg, the star studded panel included Lunar Module Pilots Walt Cunningham (Apollo 7), Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9), Fred Haise (Apollo 13), Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) and Apollo Flight Directors, Gerry Griffin and Milt Windler, who shared memories, insights and some gentle jesting with each other.  

Throughout the event, the recurring themes of teamwork, pride, gratitude, and camaraderie were apparent beginning with an acknowledgement and moment of silence for the brave men who served their country during the D-Day invasion 75 years ago.

 Highlights included:

Walt Cunningham (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 7) shared that he is often asked if he was scared. And he remarked that he was glad he had the opportunity to do it and acknowledged that there wasn’t the uncertainty that exists today.  “In the program, we did best we could to make it successful. We were aware of the thing that might be a problem. Everybody was willing to pay the price, whatever it took to make that mission successful.”

Rusty Schweickart  Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 9) Rusty Schweickart remarked on his experience floating in his EVA suit spontaneously for five minutes, when his crew mates were working on an issue. “I had five minutes to look at earth, the brilliant blue horizon, absolutely spectacular – completely silent, no sound, no motors. I was floating inside my suit, like a pea in a pod. I realized in that moment my responsibility now is to explore what is happening, as a human being, not an astronaut. He contemplated, “How did I get here beyond the Saturn 5 and American taxpayers money?” He concluded “that it was humanity, the creation and partnership with machines that has allowed human lives to move out to environments of this kind.” And added, “10,000 years from now, this will still be the moment in history when humanity first stepped into space when life left earth. One time, unique moment in time, from life from planet earth first moved out to space”.

Fred Haise (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 13) When asked about Apollo 13, Fred recalled the time before they were deciding to shut down the mission and waiting for the various teams at Mission control to come up with ideas for a solution. If they were to shut down, they didn’t have a plan for that. They were trouble shooting for about an hour. He remembers there was silence for awhile but then the recognizable voices from Mission Control returned. He remembers, “The LEM was good. Nothing had been damaged. Knew we could operate from the LEM”, which served as their life boat.

Charlie Duke (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 16)had made multiple visits to Grumman in Bethpage for many years as an astronaut and remarked, “I was really and always impressed with esprit de corp, the work ethic of all the Grumman employees. We really got along together well. Grumman did a really really great job. Gave me the ride of my life, especially the ascent stage. If you listen to that transcript, What a ride, what a ride. And that took us back into orbit again. We had a tremendous spacecraft and it’s all do the hard work of these workers And the support we got.”  

Harrison Schmitt (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 17)

When Lee Goldberg asked, “For those of us who will never we able to walk on the moon, what’s the sensation?”, Schmitt replied, “Don’t give up yet,” enthusiastically throwing out moon balls to the audience.  He shared, “Walking on the moon is like walking on giant trampoline. Imagine that experience with no limits; see how far you can go. I found that the best way to run on the moon is to do it like cross-country skiing. I could never convince my pilot colleagues that this was the way to walk. For some reason, my pilot colleagues liked to hop.” He encouraged seated guests to practice their cross country skiing for when they go to the moon.

Milt Winder (Apollo Flight Director) – Shared that there is often a misconception that there is just one flight director when in reality there were multiple teams assigned to different mission phases. He remarked that teams stayed the same and the activities were divided to really understand for flight plan to accomplish goals. He said that getting all scientists to agree was not very easy. The simulated problems the teams worked on were worse than they had on flights. “Everyone was comfortable with what they were doing; had experience. He attributed success to: 1) Anticipating what was going to happen and figuring out the right approach to various failures 2). Conducting a lessons learned after flights to discuss among ourselves improvements, always getting better.”

Andrew Parton (Cradle of Aviation Museum)

The Cradle of Aviation Museum has been celebrating an Apollo at 50 Countdown for 18 months including monthly events with astronauts, engineers, writers and artists who came to museum to share their perspective on the Apollo program, meeting with students from a network of Apollo Partner Schools during day and public at night. According to Andrew Parton, President of the Cradle of Aviation Museum. “We hope with that all these efforts we can re-energize interest in the space program and the science behind it. We can use it as a teaching tool here at the museum for studies in history but also for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). We also hope these efforts do something more important and to shine a light on the significance of Apollo as probably one of the greatest achievements in history. And finally to shine a light on the role Long Island played and the men and women of Grumman played in the success of the program. “

50 years later, the universal pride that Apollo Program generated on July 20, 1969, returned in a big way, but now enjoyed and experienced across multiple generations. The room was filled with smiles, laughs, passion, and pride. And the Apollo Team was so happy to be reunited. The Cradle of Aviation Museum will also be holding a Moon Fest and Countdown Celebration Dinner on July 20th enabling the community to once again celebrate and honor jointly this historic event. Details available at www.cradleofaviaiton.org/apollo

As Charlie Duke remarked. “We are thankful for being invited back to the Cradle of Aviation Museum and for having this opportunity to see one another and catch up with stories and celebrate this great event of 50 years. Thank you for opportunities to recall and see old friends.”  

The Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center is home to over 75 planes and spacecraft representing over 100 years of aviation history and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater.  Currently, the museum is celebrating  “Countdown to Apollo at 50” sponsored by the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, showcasing Long Island and Grumman’s significant role in the Apollo program. Additional sponsors of the 50th Anniversary Events include Northrop Grumman ASME, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Jet Blue Airways, PSEG Long Island, Merrill Lycn (Riedy-Marano Group, Newsday, AppDynamics, News12, Terminal One, Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines, & Korean Air. The Museum was recently recognized and listed on New York State’s National Register of Historic Places as a significant part of American history. The museum is located on Museum Row, Charles Lindbergh Blvd., in East Garden City.  For more information call (516) 572-4111 or visit www.cradleofaviation.org

Apollo Astronauts and Flight Directors join together in front of the LM-13, a Lunar Module that was built and tested for Apollo Mission 19, that was canceled. It is one of only three LM’s left on earth. The other two are at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

LtoR: Sitting   Fred Haise, Rusty Schweickart, Walt Cunningham

LtoR: Standing Milt Windler, Harrison Schmitt, Charlie Duke, Gerry Griffin

Apollo Astronauts and Flight Directors Assemble on stage at the Apollo at 50 Anniversary Dinner. Seated guests included the Grumman Workers that were part of the Lunar Module Program. 

L to R: Andrew Parton, President of Cradle of Aviation Museum, Charlie Duke (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 16 ) Gerry Griffin (Apollo Flight Director),  Milt Windler (Apollo Flight Director), Harrison Schmitt (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 17), Walt Cunningham (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 7), Rusty Schweickart (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 9), Fred Haise (Apollo 13), Lee Goldberg, ABC-TV NY News

More photos available upon request at fperpero@cradleofaviation.org