PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — This weekend's 50th anniversary of the moon landing had special meaning for one Pasco County man.
- Henry "Hank" Denninger was on team that designed landing pads on lunar module
- Watching coverage of the 50th anniversary gave him a chance to reflect
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“I mean, there was nothing like it. You never thought you’d see the day,” said Henry “Hank” Denninger of Port Richey.
Denninger, 77, said he began working as a subcontractor for Grumman Aerospace on Long Island in 1966. He started out as an electrical mechanical draftsman and worked on several projects, eventually becoming a designer on the team that developed the landing pads on the lunar module.
“It’s the first thing that hits the moon. The first thing – that was this pad,” said Denninger, pointing to a photo of the module on the surface of the moon. “I get chills when I see it.”
There were challenges that came along with the project, including finding just the right materials.
“It was weight, you know. You can’t have this – it’s too heavy. You can’t have that – it’s too heavy,” said Denninger.
The world gathered to watch the module in action on July 20, 1969. Thanks to helping out a friend earlier in the day, Denninger said he almost wasn’t one of them.
“I gave him a hand painting his house,” Denninger said. “That was a mistake. We had to put four coats of paint on this big colonial house – two story. I must’ve put 30, 40 gallons of paint on it in that one day. I was so tired, when it was time to watch the landing, I had to force myself to stay awake.”
Looking back, Denninger said it’s hard to wrap his mind around the part he played in history.
“It’s very hard to describe. I never thought about it a lot of times. You just did your job and that was it, you know?” he said.
Denninger and his family moved to Florida and he continued his work in the engineering field until retiring in 2002. He said watching news coverage of the moon landing's 50th anniversary has given him a chance to reflect on his work on the module.
“I was proud of that job. It’s a job you never forget. Like I said, there’s no words for it.”