From Maryland To The Moon

July 19, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

The world was able to share in the excitement of Neil Armstrong's "one small step for man" on July 20, 1969, thanks to the steps made by many on Earth, including Marylanders who played a part in the historic event.

Stanley Lebar

When Neil Armstrong descended the ladder from the lunar module, Stanley Lebar, a Westinghouse Electric Corp. engineer, was watching in a small lab at Mission Control in Houston.

The historic images he and the rest of the world saw were thanks to a camera he had helped build.

"It was as exciting as it could be," said Lebar, 84, who retired from Westinghouse in 1987 and now lives in Severna Park. "There was the emotion of having worked so hard and seeing the camera work so well, but there was also the sheer exhilaration of watching a man walk on the moon."

Lebar oversaw more than 75 engineers and technicians and 300 manufacturers at the Linthicum-based facility. Their challenge was to create a camera that would operate in the dim lunar night and withstand extreme temperatures - 250 degrees Fahrenheit during the lunar day and 300 degrees below zero at night.

The camera weighed in at 7 pounds and resembled a bread pan.

"There was a great deal of tension until the time they threw the switch," Lebar said. "When the space capsule's door opened, and I knew the camera was working, it was pure elation."

It was a good thing. Because there was no backup on board.

Lebar has tried for the past three years to locate tapes of the original video feed, traveling to the CBS archive in New York and to government agencies in Washington.

He believes some of that footage has been lost, but with the help of modern technology, recently enhanced video has been released. When work on the video is complete in September, Lebar says, "It's going to be an exceptionally good rendition."

Bastian "Buz" Hello

In the 1960s, Bastian "Buz" Hello was in a race against time.

Working at Martin Marietta Co. in Middle River, the engineer was part of a team charged with converting intercontinental ballistic missiles into booster rockets capable of lifting men into space.

"We worked so briskly because it was President [John F.] Kennedy's edict that we land on the moon by 1969," said Hello, a University of Maryland graduate who was a Gemini launch vehicle program manager.

At Martin he helped develop missiles that lifted the two-man Gemini capsules into space. Later at North American Rockwell, he worked on the Saturn rockets that launched the Apollo crews to the moon.

"It seemed like we worked almost around the clock, straight through, with almost no rest before the Apollo 11 launch," said Hello, 85, who lives in Potomac.

In the weeks leading up to the launch, he worked in Florida testing the spacecraft. On the morning of July 16, 1969, he stepped outside the control room.

"The liftoff was so intense, you could feel a physical presence on your chest," Hello said. "The emotional trauma was exceptional."

Ernest F. Imhoff

The moon launch was a spectacular news event. Evening Sun reporter Ernest F. Imhoff recalled being assigned to cover the event from Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral). He was lucky to get a motel room in Cocoa Beach - some reporters without accommodations slept on the sand.

He rose at 3:30 a.m. on July 16, 1969, and took a press bus to a VIP viewing area. He watched the astronauts walk past.

"They looked at us, smiled and nodded. They did not speak and kept moving," said Imhoff, 72, who lives in Bolton Hill. "We were anxious. ... There had been problems with Apollo rockets."

He recalled the weather as a "glorious day." The press area effectively doubled as a VIP section filled with senators, congressmen and other influential guests.

Imhoff dictated his story by phone to Baltimore: "With the men and their ship working perfectly, America's Apollo 11 astronauts hurtled through space today on a voyage of the ages, the first attempt to land men on the moon."

In tomorrow's Sun

Read Ernest F. Imhoff's reflections on the Apollo 11 mission on the Maryland Voices page

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