'A thrill ran through me': your memories of the Apollo 11 moon landing

Readers share their memories of a life changing shared experience, including relics and photographs from 1969

‘I remember feeling an almost physical thrill run through me’

I was 16, sitting in our huge downstairs recreation room with my parents, my brothers and sister, and many of our closest friends. We were one of the few families with a large colour television in our circle of friends, so we invited many of them to join us to watch Apollo 11 land. As I recall now, there were almost 30 of us sitting and standing, hardly daring to even talk as we watched.

I remember feeling an almost physical thrill run through me as we watched Neil Armstrong climbing down the ladder, and I remember my mother gasping aloud “That was perfect!”, through her tears of joy and excitement after he made that famous “That’s one small step for a man...” statement. I remember my grandfather screaming with excitement: “Do you believe what we just saw? My lord, can you believe it?” As a young man, he had witnessed Glenn Curtis fly the first airplane over New York and now he’d watched men walk on the moon. He was like a little boy again for a few moments, so delighted to have lived to see both. ​Edwin Green, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA​

‘We stuck our heads out to stare at the moon – every household in the street was doing the same’

We watched the landing on TV in our shared house in London and as soon as Armstrong stepped out my flatmate and I rushed to the window in the loft and stuck our heads out to stare at the moon – as if we could see him – to find that just about every household in the street was doing the same. It was a great shared moment not just for the street but for mankind. Carolyn, 73, Bristol

‘I was thrilled beyond belief when I received the crew photo’

We didn’t have a television in our home in Delhi so we heard the news via All India Radio. After that and reading all about it in the Times of India, I remember sending a postcard (with my mother’s help) to Mr. Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11, NASA, Houston, Texas, USA requesting an autographed photograph.

A ‘signed’ photo of the Apollo 11 astronauts.
Scan of a ‘signed’ photo of the Apollo 11 astronauts. Photograph: Krishnaswamy Venkatesh Prasad/Guardian Community

I was thrilled beyond belief when I received the crew photo with a set of autographs. As a 10-year-old I believed the signatures to be “real” – while an elder in the family said they were rubber stamps. Regardless, it made quite a buzz in school and at home. I was later inspired to become an electrical engineer – the closest thing to the moon I got was working briefly at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where we developed the specifications for what is now the International Space Station. Krishnaswamy Venkatesh Prasad, Michigan

‘Somehow we thought landing on the moon would make the world a better place’

I watched ghostly black and white images on the TV in my parents’ sitting room, with Patrick Moore talking us through things. My father went to bed leaving strict instructions he should be woken when the astronauts emerged. In between the landing and them stepping onto the surface I went outside: the moon was shining brightly and though I couldn’t see, I knew the rocket was safely up there. It was the most important, exciting, momentous event of our generation.

We watched breathless as Armstrong climbed down the ladder. We all cried! Somehow we thought landing on the moon would make the world a better place. Marlene Fenton, Lancashire

‘These have resisted for 50 years, surviving multiple house moves’

My sister and I were sleeping over at an uncle and aunt’s place near Lisbon so we could watch the landing and the first walk. I vividly recall Armstrong’s first step, all the more exciting having been woken at close to 4am! I had been following space exploration for a couple of years, driven by the contagious excitement and immense knowledge of a friend of my parents who had been an aeronautical engineer, and who later sent me this bundle of newspapers and clippings.

Luis Burnay’s collection of 1969 newspapers celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landings
Part of Luis Burnay’s collection of 1969 newspapers. Photograph: Luis Burnay/Guardian Community

These have resisted for 50 years, surviving multiple house moves through four different countries! Time to frame them now to celebrate this anniversary. Luis Bernay, Portugal

‘I can’t see Apollo 11 take off now without crying – anything was possible’

I had just cancelled my wedding, which should have taken place two weeks later, so my friends were taking me away to help get over it. I can’t see Apollo 11 take off now without crying, as it was such an amazing event – but also to me meant freedom and that anything was possible. It was wonderful to be able to lose myself in such an awe-inspiring and beautiful other world. I was lucky enough to later interview James Irwin, who drove the moon buggy for Apollo 15 – sitting next to one of the few people who have actually stood on the moon is one of the highlights of my life. Janet Whitaker, Gloucestershire

‘The whole school marched into assembly to pray for their safe return’

Reader Debbie Brook and her father in July 1969.
Reader Debbie Brook and her father in July 1969. Photograph: Debbie Brook/Guardian Community

It was just before the summer holidays of my last year at primary school when the astronauts set off for the moon, and I remember the whole school being marched into the assembly hall to pray for their safe return. We were asked to remember the astronauts’ children, who were “just like us”.

I was so affected by the thought that while Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on the moon, Michael Collins was all alone in the command module in the dark and the silence. I thought of him on the dark side and, having been nervous about changing schools, made up my mind that if he was brave enough to do that, I would be fine taking the bus by myself.

On the morning they landed my dad woke me up at 3.30am. He held my hand and told me that all people on Earth were making history – I could feel the enormity. Debbie Brook, Surrey

‘He’d lived through flight by the Wright brothers, to see the moon landings – a giant step’

I watched on a black and white TV in our new home in West Yorkshire, with my father, who’d woken me up to share it with him. We were both huge aviation and space enthusiasts, and I eventually joined the RAF, but we were totally enthralled by the Apollo programme.

Picture of a commemorative slide issued by the Daily Express shortly after the moon landings in 1969.
Commemorative slide issued by the Daily Express. Photograph: Ian Stacey/Guardian Community

We both loved Tomorrow’s World, and my memories of the moon landings are of James Burke’s superb broadcasts. The slide here was issued by the Daily Express – and bequeathed to me from my granddad after he died in 1970. He’d lived through flight by the Wright brothers, to see the moon landings – a giant step! Ian Stacey, Dalkeith

‘My dad tells me that my memory is false’

My family had emigrated from India in 1967 and we were living in Wolverhampton. I was four years old and remember sitting in my father’s lap, him smelling of whiskey and cigarettes, in the “best” room of our house watching the Eagle land and Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon. My strongest memory of the landing is feeling immensely close to my father, and feeling absolutely awestruck by what I was seeing. I knew something stupendous was happening, but I didn’t have the words to express my feelings.

My dad tells me we didn’t own a TV in 1969 and that my memory is false. I guess he must be right, but my feelings of love for him were so strong at that moment I am choosing to believe my version. Deepak Puri, 54, Sheffield

‘I was upset because it was “my” party!’

Apollo birthday cake
Neil’s Apollo 11 cake Photograph: Neil McNeil/Guardian Community

I was six and my birthday was on the day, so we had a special Apollo party with a rocket cake. I remember little, just vague memories of being led into the house to watch TV at some point. My dad was excited, but my strongest memories were that it was quite emotional: I was upset because it was “my” party and I wasn’t getting all the attention! Clearly still demanding attention today: I might make a cake on Saturday. Neil, Northamptonshire

‘I was almost in tears as I berated my mother for letting me sleep!’

I had posters of the astronauts and cosmonauts next to George Best and Bobby Charlton on my walls, Saturn V and Vostok model rockets I had painstakingly made and painted. I loved science fiction films and here was a real live event as fantastic as any film I had seen.

I was nine and had to beg my very pregnant mother to let me watch the whole mission unfold. I struggled to keep my eyes open as I sat on the sofa, and eventually succumbed before waking with a start. “Did they land?” “Yes they did”. In that moment I knew I had missed the greatest moment in history! I was almost in tears as I berated my mother for letting me sleep.

My brother was born on July 27 and has Neil in his name. I will be celebrating his birthday in Canada along with the other events of that month 50 years ago, Mum will be there too! Peter Devine, Manchester

‘The contrast between my immobility and the astronauts seemed so unfair’

I was nine and in Stoke Mandeville hospital, having fractured my left femur in a freak swimming pool accident. In those days, treatment consisted of eight weeks in traction with a system of pulleys to straighten the leg.

Andrew Clark, with crutches, in 1969.
Andrew Clark, with crutches, in 1969. Photograph: Andrew Clark/Guardian Community

With nothing to do I became obsessed with Apollo. For the landing itself, the nurses wheeled my bed, pulleys and weights (the furthest I’d moved for weeks!) so that I could see the ward’s tiny distant TV in the wee small hours (whether allowed or not). The contrast between my immobility and the apparently unconstrained freedom of the astronauts seemed extraordinarily unfair! Not good enough at maths, I didn’t become a space engineer, but a cardiologist instead. The sight of those grainy pictures still brings me out in goose pimples. Andrew Clark, North Ferriby


Guardian readers and Matthew Holmes

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