Christie Smith

USS Hornet Museum Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing

As part of a day of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's moon landing, the recovery team for the astronauts visited the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda to share their stories.

Bruce Johnson was the co-pilot in the helicopter that picked up the astronauts safely when they splashed down in the ocean after those historic first steps.

The 900-foot-long World War II era aircraft carrier's mission back them was to come alongside the tiny 12-foot-wide space capsule and safely pluck the crew out of the ocean.

“We raised each astronaut into the back of the helicopter, and after they got an initial check by Dr. Carpentier we flew them to the Hornet,” he said.

As people explored the museum, John Hirasaki, who worked in the mobile quarantine facility, recounted some of the special measures that had to be taken. “We did not know if there were harmful pathogens on the moon that could affect the rest of earth, so as a precaution we had to build facilities in order to house the crew,” he said.

People who attended the celebration were amazed. “I had a chance to chop it up with the co-pilot and it just seemed like these people were part of history, and for me to meet them is just an honor for me,” said one attendee.

Once the afternoon festivities concluded, a special dinner was held abord the USS Hornet. Dozens of the original crew members attended. 

Robert Ash, one of the original crew members who attended the dinner, recalled the preperation. "We did practice runs every day, seven days a week, until it was time that they called us to retrieve the Apollo," he said.

The celebration aboard the USS Hornet was a chance to relive the historic moment when the United States did what seemed impossible.

"It just really reminds us of what the possibilities are, with the right amount of funding and the creativity of the human spirit," said Oakland Representitive Barbara Lee. 

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