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First walk on moon left indelible mark

July 10, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

Man's first walk on the moon 30 years ago was one of those pivotal moments in history when many people still remember exactly what they were doing when it happened.

"The whole family sat around when it was happening," said Waynesboro resident Joe Bowling, recounting the moment he watched it on television.

"It was neat. But it seems a waste now," said Bowling. "There are other things to worry about."

The idea of a lunar walk was so unusual that some people didn't believe it was happening, area residents said. Other people were saying that God did not intend for man to walk on the moon.

"A lot of people thought it was like on a movie set," said Ronald Gelsinger, of Chambersburg, Pa.

Elton Horst of Hagerstown was busy getting ready for his wedding in 1969, but he remembered Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin leaping down on the dusty surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 16.

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"It was another giant step for me," said Horst.

But for others, the memory was a little fuzzy.

Charles Rake was a senior in high school at the time, and he said he was having too much fun on Earth to think about the moon.

"The only thing I can tell you is I was 40 pounds slimmer and a lot less responsible. I think I remember more about Woodstock than I do the moon," said Rake as he roasted coffee beans outside his Greencastle Coffee Roasters store in Greencastle, Pa., Saturday.

With all the advances in space exploration since Apollo 11, including regular space shuttle flights, space flights are commonplace now and don't carry the excitement they used to, Tri-State residents said Saturday.

But that doesn't mean there should be any less emphasis on the space program, said Phil Goldman of Hagerstown.

There is speculation that the Earth will eventually "expire," although it will probably take millions of years, and the planet's population will have to be taken somewhere, said Goldman, who worked on the nation's space program.

The United States must continue an aggressive space exploration program to determine if climates on nearby planets can be altered for human survival or if space stations can be built for habitation, Goldman said.

It may sound incomprehensible, but so was walking on the moon, Goldman said.

"The advances we've made now are so astronomical that anything is possible. It's a very exciting thing to work on," said Goldman.

In the early 1960s, Goldman worked for RCA Corp., which was contracted by the federal government to help design the Ranger spacecraft, a rocket that was sent to the moon to take photographs. The craft was designed so that after it took the pictures, it crashed, Goldman said.

Besides paving the way into space, NASA's space programs have resulted in the development of numerous materials such as heat resistant paints and other heat-shielding products, Goldman said.

"It's certainly brought a lot of benefits that people don't realize," said Dick McCracken of Mercersburg, Pa.

McCracken agrees that there needs to be an aggressive space program. Even if other planets cannot be modified to support human life, they should be explored to determine if they can provide new mineral resources or food sources, McCracken said.

"Wouldn't it be really neat if we found a civilization up there that we didn't know about?" said Lisa Thomas of Falling Waters, W.Va.

"I'm not ready to take a trip myself, but you never say never. So much stuff that was science fiction years ago is now reality," said Horst.

But the amount of space exploration the country should carry out is arguable.

Several area residents interviewed said money spent on the space program should be decreased to help solve other problems like world hunger and lack of adequate health care.

Joe Russo of Waynesboro, Pa., said things are getting too technical. While computer technology has skyrocketed, some students are not learning how to use it in schools, said Russo.

Russo said he can't imagine starting another space colony when people can't take care of Earth.

"Nobody's going to get to space, no matter how much technology advances," said Russo.

Donna Prahl of Falling Waters, W.Va., agrees there are a lot of problems on Earth that could be eased with the money that goes into the space program.

"There are some people going through some pretty tough times," said Prahl.

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