KTTV 70: The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission

The date, July 16, 1969. The time, 9:32 a.m. Mission Control, "Liftoff. We have liftoff."

With those words, the Apollo 11 Mission was underway with a Saturn 5 rocket ripping through the sky at Cape Canaveral -- destination, the moon.

Mission Control: "We're now in the approach phase. Everything looking good... Altitude 4200... you're a go for landing."

A landing President John F. Kennedy wanted when he told the Americans, "I believe that nation should commit itself of achieving the goal before this decade is out of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

Six years after the President's assassination Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins fulfilled that dream. It was a mission that lasted eight days, three hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds.

That was 50 years ago. A half-century since these words were burned into our memories and history books: "Tranquility base here. The eagle has landed." And, of course, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."​​​​​​​

On that very day, Garrett Reisman was just one year old. But, what happened on the moon affected the rest of his life.

Hal Eisner: Did that moon landing have an impact on you?)

Reisman: "It had a huge impact on me."

Reisman says it inspired his dad to become an engineer and, Reisman to follow in the footsteps of Collins, Armstrong and Aldrin.

Reisman, who was on several shuttle missions, went to the International Space Station and did a spacewalk, looks back with several thoughts. One is that there was just so much uncertainty back then.

"They tried just like we did to simulate everything," Reisman said. "Anything they could imagine they tried to do in a simulator and try to figure out 'well what are we going to do if this happens. What are we going to do if that happens. So, when Neil and Buzz were in the LEM coming down, just as an example, they looked out the window and saw the spot they were intending to land and it was covered with rocks. They didn't know there were going to be rocks there and you can't set this thing down in a field of boulders."

Reisman says they had to find another spot. They almost ran out of fuel.

"A couple of more seconds," he says, "and there wouldn't have been 'one small step for mankind; one giant leap for mankind.'"

When they got back the Apollo 11 astronauts were given a heroes welcome. Angelenos were riveted to the whole thing as it blazed across their TV screens. KTTV found reactions from 1969 in our film archives like these a man who told KTTV Reporter Ken Jones, "I think it's one of the greatest things in history!"

Another said, "I think it's a real wonderful thing. I think it's wonderful that America is doing this. I think it's wonderful for our prestige here and I really believe America will use it for peaceful purposes."

And, a third who added, "I think it's really interesting and a step forward for mankind and everything."

Now, fast-forward five decades, Reisman, astronaut turned U-S-C Professor, said, "One of the great things about the 50th anniversary is that we're watching it again."

Yes we are!