The 1969 Moon Landing and the Contributions of Bridgewater Businesses to the Mission
by Bruce Doorly
|July 20th of this year will mark the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon.
This first manned space flight to the moon has been called man’s greatest technological achievement.
It seems ironic that it happened a half century ago (in 1969) and it has not been done since 1972.
|While the first moonwalk is thought of as an event of “global” significance, it also has a “local” story to tell.
Bridgewater residents watched along with everyone else and three Bridgewater businesses made contributions to the Apollo 11 space mission.
Bridgewater back in 1969 was expanding rapidly. Its population had doubled from 15,000 to 30,000 in the decade. (Today’s population is 45,000.)
Many of the things found in town today, did not exist then. In 1969 Bridgewater did not have its own post office – they used Somerville’s office.
The Bridgewater Mall was years away from being built, there was no minor league baseball team, and no ice rink.
In a look through some local directories and newspapers from 1969 we do see some familiar businesses that are still with us today - Fullerton Ford, Chimney Rock Inn, Post (Ace) Hardware, Steck’s Delicatessen, and in June that year the Hoagie Hut opened – and back then, it was in a hut.
|The Hoagie Hut in Bridgewater had just opened|
|For the Apollo 11 moonwalk the world was glued to their television sets. Estimates are that 500 million people worldwide watched
Unlike today, you had to watch it live, or you missed it. There were no DVRs and VCRs to record it for you.
|It was decided by NASA that the live video transmission from the moon back to the earth for that first walk would
be in black-and-white at 340 images across and just 10 frames per second. It was a cloudy image, but that only added to the fascination of it all.
The black-and-white decision did not affect most of those who would watch it as only one-third of U.S. families had a color television.
The popular location where local residents purchased their televisions back then was MacArthur’s in downtown Somerville. If the set had a problem a T.V. repair guy would come to the house. Many remember T.V Repairman Jim Mancini of Raritan visiting their house.
|It was the era of the T.V. Repairman|
Jim Mancini of Raritan visited many homes
|On Sunday, July 20th 1969 at 10:56 PM EDT, several hours after landing on the moon, Neil Armstrong exited the lunar module
and moved down the ladder.
He set his boots on the surface of the moon, and spoke that famous quote “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Twenty minutes later Buzz Aldrin would join Armstrong on the surface. Aldrin's first words after he exited the lunar module were "Beautiful view", to which Armstrong asked "Isn't that something. Magnificent sight out here." Aldrin answered, "Magnificent desolation."
|Neil Armstrong takes that one small step|
|Buzz and Neil quickly started on the tasks and experiments that had been planned. They scooped up rock samples to be brought
back and examined by eager scientists. Some equipment was brought out to conduct scientific experiments.
They took a quick call from President Richard Nixon. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong together mounted an American Flag on the surface. Since there is no wind on the moon, wires were needed inside the cloth to give the appearance that Old Glory was flying in the breeze.
Armstrong had a camera with him and snapped a famous picture of Buzz standing at the side of the flag.
|For that live broadcast each astronaut had a microphone and receiver in his helmet that was conferenced together
along with NASA mission control in Houston. Even astronaut Michael Collins who remained orbiting the moon had one.
NASA communicated with the astronauts and the astronauts with each other.
Each T.V. network had an anchorman covering the event who occasionally interjected a few comments during the times when the conversation lagged between NASA and the astronauts. Due to the distance between the moon and earth there was a three second delay in sound transmission.
|After 2 hours and 15 minutes it was time for the astronauts to get back in the lunar module and begin preparations to
return to earth. There was no sense overstaying and taking a chance of running into trouble as the landing and walk had already been
successfully and safely accomplished.
The public was mostly euphoric at this stage having seen men walk on the moon, but NASA was still holding its breath knowing the return trip had its risks. Four days later the astronauts returned safety to earth.
|The Apollo 11 mission was years in the making, had thousands of people work on it, and hundreds of companies made contributions.
What seems to have been lost to history, until now, is the fact that three Bridgewater businesses made contributions to Apollo 11.
This author was fortunate that he stumbled upon an article in the Somerset Messenger Gazette from 1969 that told of the local contributions.
|Click to see full article|
|Johns Manville Research Center on Finderne Avenue in Bridgewater produced two products that were used.
Its first product Micro-Quartz was used as a backup on the heat shield to prevent the spacecraft from burning up during its reentry into earth’s atmosphere. The other product Min-K insulated the power cells that supplied electricity onboard. The buildings that once made up the “Johns Manville Research Center” are still standing. Today they are occupied by Henkel, Ingredion, and a couple other companies.
|Johns Manville Research Center was in |
these buildings on Finderne Ave. in Bridgewater
|American Cyanamid (Calco), an industrial complex in the south-east corner of Bridgewater, produced adhesives
that were used to bond many things in the command module. These adhesives had replaced other methods of bonding such as welding, riveting, and bolting.
The buildings from the American Cyanamid site are now all gone. The land that they were on is fenced off due to long-term contamination that was caused. What was their parking lot now holds the Somerset Patriots Baseball Stadium.
|The Calco Complex is now gone.|
Where their parking lot once
was is the Patriot's Baseball Stadium
|RCA, on Route 202 in Bridgewater, made many of the solid state electronic components employed in the radar systems. RCA left Bridgewater years ago. The Wegman’s shopping center is there today.|
The RCA Building was here.|
This new building looks a bit like the RCA building.
Some say it is a new building, while others
say it is the old one refurbished. (Not sure)
|On YouTube, many versions of the Apollo 11 moonwalk can be seen. The full original telecasts for all three major networks
can be found.
There are many documentaries, interviews with the astronauts, and various other videos related to Apollo 11.
One can even see Buzz Aldrin waltzing away during his stint with “Dancing with the Stars” in 2010.
|Buzz Aldrin was eliminated in week two|
in his stint with "Dancing With the Stars".
|For those old enough to have watched the first moonwalk live - this author watched at age seven -
I recommend that you go to YouTube and watch it again. I found it almost as fascinating today as when I watched it back in 1969.
Final thought – In scanning “local” activity calendars for the month of July I did not see much to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11. I do hope something comes about. Even if it is a small event such as having some elected officials and space enthusiasts meet in the parking lot where a Bridgewater businesses that contributed to Apollo 11 once stood to offer up a quick toast. Just a thought.
|On Tuesday, July 16th the Raritan Library will be showing the new movie “Apollo 11”.
There will be a matinee and an evening show.