YADKINVILLE, N.C. -- It was a time that would be hard to imagine, in today’s world.
“President Kennedy stood before Congress in May of 1961 and said, 'We're going to go to the moon by the end of this decade,’” says Rick Houston. “That was the one time in American history where the American people pulled together behind a president's directive.”
Space flight has been a fascination for Houston since he was a young man growing up in Nashville, Tennesse. He’s spent most of his adult life in Yadkinville though, as an author of nearly a dozen books, including "NASCAR’s Greatest Race: The 1992 Hooter’s 500 … The Kid, The King and the Underbird."
It wasn’t so much Kennedy’s bold declaration that has fascinated Houston lately, as how it was accomplished.
“When he did that, the technology to go to the moon did not exist, the procedures did not exist, the equipment did not exist. Most of the people that NASA needed to go to the moon had not been hired,” Houston said.
And when they were, they were often ordinary people with less than spectacular resumes.
“They came from absolutely ordinary backgrounds. Bob Carlton, who watched over Eagle's fuel supply as Apollo's was landing, dropped out of school in the ninth grade,” Houston said. “Dropped out of school in the ninth grade! Joined the Air Force, eventually went to Auburn University, became an engineer and eventually landed people on the surface of the moon.”
What they did was appreciated, though many of them didn’t realize quite how much, including Ed Fendell, who discovered how much the morning after Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
“He went to a local dive for a quick breakfast,” Houston writes in his book, "Go, Flight!" It tells the story of the unsung heroes of Apollo’s Mission Control. “[Fendell] sat down at the counter, unfolded a newspaper … and started reading. A man next to him … started talking. ‘You know, I went through World War II. I landed at Normandy on D-Day,’ the man said. ‘Yesterday was the day I felt proudest to be an American.’ At that point, Fendell paid as quickly as he could, grabbed his paper and walked out to his car. Once there, he started to cry.”
Rick’s book is the basis for the new documentary, "Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo."
To attend the Friday, May 26, 7 p.m. screening of the documentary, email Rick Houston at firstname.lastname@example.org.