50 Years since the Giant Leap for Mankind

On July 20, 1969, at 3:17 pm (Little Rock time), the lunar module Eagle set down in the Sea of Tranquility on the moon. Astronaut Neil Armstrong radioed to Mission Control in Houston, “The Eagle has landed.”

At 9:39 pm, several hours ahead of schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch and started his slow descent to the lunar surface.  At 9:56 pm, he set his booted foot on the moon and uttered his now famous (and garbled) statement: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

At 10:15 pm, astronaut Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the moon.  The pair explored the surface, conducted experiments, took photos, and planted the US flag.  They also spoke with President Nixon.  Shortly after midnight on July 21, the pair returned to the Eagle.  Twelve hours later they began heading back to the Apollo 11 which was orbiting the moon piloted by astronaut Michael Collins.

Since the Arkansas Gazette was a morning paper, they did not carry the news until the morning of July 21.  Though the Arkansas Democrat was an afternoon paper, they published their Sunday edition in the morning. And since the events transpired after what would have been their afternoon deadline, their coverage did not appear until the afternoon of July 21.  (During liftoff, the Democrat got the lead on the Gazette by publishing stories on it in their July 16 edition while the Gazette had to wait until July 17.)

As expected, much of the news in those papers was about the moon landing. Even some of the other news had a lunar bent. A photo showed US soldiers in Viet Nam listening on the radio to coverage of the landing.

But there was other news going on.  Egypt and Israel were still fighting.  Indira Gandhi celebrated a political victory in India, while Spain was looking toward Prince Juan Carlos eventually becoming King upon the death or retirement of Franco (which would not come until 1975).  It was announced that Senator Ted Kennedy would be charged with leaving the scene of an accident after his wreck in Chappaquiddick which resulted in the death by drowning of his companion,  Mary Jo Kopechne.

Closer to home, the new Miss Arkansas, Marilyn Kay Allen, was adjusting to her new role.  The Arkansas Constitutional Convention continued to grind on.  The Travelers lost 4 to 1 to Amarillo on the road.