COCOA BEACH, Fla. — A panel comprised of the now-grown children of astronauts who carried out the historic Apollo space missions shared their memories of growing up that close to America's emerging space program with guests on Sunday as part of ongoing celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The Apollo program started in 1963 and ended in 1972, with six successful missions landing humans safely on the moon and bringing them home.
Jeff Lovell, whose father, Jim, was part of the Apollo 8 and 13 missions, shared with guests Sunday the sense of urgency behind the first lunar mission, which was, of course, a race to beat Russia.
“Let's see if we can get these men to the moon, circle the moon and back, to be on track to land on the moon before the end of a decade," Lovell explained. "It was a bold move, and that occurred in 1968.”
Tracy Cernan's father, Gene, flew on the Apollo 10 and 17 missions, and was the last man to set foot on the moon.
“He realized it was coming to an end when Apollo 18 got canceled," she explained. "It was a sad time, but he was very happy because he was commanding this last mission."
Cernan said if her father were alive today, he would be proud the Space Coast is set to send people back to the moon.
“He never wanted to be the last man on the moon," she said. "He would say this is the beginning and not the end."
Lovell said he's looking forward to watching his father, who is currently 91, see people return to the moon by 2024. By that time he'll be around 96 years old.
“it will be a great family affair, and passing the torch, that would be what he would love to do,” Lovell said.