ON A Monday afternoon in July of 1969, Bendigo's Chris Wyatt should have been at school.
The 15-year-old was in Form Four at Eaglehawk High School. But for this day 50 years ago schoolwork was instead replaced by Mr Wyatt, and an estimated 600 million others around the world, tuning into the grainy black and white pictures on a small TV as man first walked on the moon.
This weekend marks 50 years since the remarkable Apollo 11 moon landing - American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins successfully completing the mission in a historic moment that is no doubt etched into memories of all those who witnessed it.
While the American date of July 20, 1969, is recorded as the moon landing, in Australia the calendar had ticked over to Monday, July 21, when Armstrong descended down the ladder of the Lunar Module "Eagle" and spoke those immortal words at 12:56pm: "That's one small step for man... one giant leap for mankind."
"I remember it was a Monday morning and listening on my little transistor radio around dawn as they were approaching the moon," Mr Wyatt recalled this week.
"What was being broadcast on the transistor was the communication between the astronauts and Houston (Mission Control Centre); I remember Buzz Aldrin was doing most of the talking.
"But I certainly wasn't going to school that day, I was staying home to watch the landing on TV in the afternoon.
"One of my sisters went to school and came home at lunch time and said, 'why don't you come and watch it on the TV in the library, there's not a lot of kids there because half the school hasn't turned up'.
One of my sisters went to school and came home at lunch time and said, 'why don't you come and watch it on the TV in the library, there's not a lot of kids there because half the school hasn't turned up'.Chris Wyatt recalling the day of the moon landing in 1969
"But I sat home and watched it and just before 1pm our time Neil came down the ladder in the iconic moment."
Bendigo's Edith Dyett also remembers being at her home to watch the moon landing - although, not by choice.
"I was 21 at the time and had been involved in a car accident on the Saturday night. I was home from work for the day with a crook foot, so I was able to watch it on our little TV at home," Mrs Dyett said.
"I remember it being so exciting, particularly as the Vietnam War was going on and it was just something wonderful to celebrate because the war wasn't going well."
Mrs Dyett owns a rare piece of moon landing memorabilia - a blue and white Wedgwood plate that depicts astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin and the Lunar Module on the moon surface.
"Ian (husband) and I went to America in the early 80s and visited Dave Seitlan, who had a big collection of antiques that was just like a museum," Mrs Dyett said.
"According to Dave, this plate was made in 1969 within one week of the moon landing photos being available and I'm told they were a limited edition and very rare.
"Dave had one of them and after expressing an interest in it he asked if I'd like to have it, so it's a very special piece."
Mr Wyatt - the Bendigo District Astronomical Section education officer - also has some memorabilia of his own: the December, 1969, edition of National Geographic dedicated to the mission that features the iconic photo of Aldrin on the moon with Armstrong in his helmet reflection.
While Mr Wyatt and Mrs Dyett can still vividly recall watching the moon landing on TV, Kangaroo Flat's Michael Tobin was intimately involved - he was reading the pulse of Armstrong as it happened.
Working as part of an Australian crew relaying signals from the Apollo 11 astronauts to NASA's Houston base, Tobin recalled the historical moment to the Bendigo Advertiser earlier this year, noting that Armstrong's "pulse skyrocketed" as he put his hand on the hatch door of the Eagle parked on Tranquility Base and prepared to descend the ladder to step on to the moon's surface.
"Armstrong was as physically-fit a specimen as you could possibly get, but he was really stretching his vitals. I think a lot of that was nerves," Mr Tobin said.
Armstrong's pulse then dropped once he had safely taken his first famous steps on the moon; Aldrin followed 19 minutes later.
"I think there was realisation he was not going to sink into six foot of dust, or something like that," Mr Tobin said.
The biggest story in the world at the time, the moon landing featured on the front page of the Bendigo Advertiser for 10 consecutive editions from July 16, which was counting down to the Apollo 11 launch at Cape Kennedy, to July 28 and the celebrated safe return of the three astronauts to Houston.
The Monday, July 21, edition of the Bendigo Advertiser pre-empted the historic occasion with a headline: "MOON MEN LANDING TODAY".
"HOUSTON, Sun. (AAP-Reuter). The three Apollo 11 astronauts were awakened by radio this morning to begin preparations for the first human landing on the moon later today," the front page story read.
"Neil Armstrong, 38-year-old civilian commander of the Apollo 11 mission, and Air Force Colonel Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, 39, are due to fly their four-legged lunar module looking like a giant insect down to a gentle landing in the barren wastes of the moon's Sea of Tranquility.
"After checking the craft, eating and resting, they will climb down a nine-rung ladder and step into history as the first men to set foot on the lunar surface.
"The third member of the Apollo 11 crew Air Force Colonel Michael Collins, 38, will remain in the orbiting command module Columbia while Armstrong and Aldrin descend in the lunar module Eagle for the moon landing."
The historic moment was captured the following day in the July 22 edition of the Addy with the front page headline screaming: "HISTORIC MOON WALK".
The opening paragraphs read: "HOUSTON, Texas, Monday - Mankind watched breathlessly today as American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon.
"Armstrong kicked into the moon's surface with the toe of his space boot. He held on to the moon lander's ladder for several seconds, then he walked away from the ship.
"Armstrong said: "There seems to be no difficulty in moving around - it's no trouble to walk around."
"He picked up a piece of the moon and put it in his pocket.
"The first television view millions on earth saw was Armstrong's foot descending the ladder from the moon lander. Then there was his full figure, shadowy, mostly a silhouette, but it was remarkably clear."
The day of the moon landing also coincided with a council meeting later that night in Bendigo, where a motion was put forward by Cr. Dick Turner to "congratulate the historic event achieved by the Apollo 11 lunar mission."
The July 22 edition of the Addy also featured a story on 11-year-old Gravel Hill State School Grade 6 student Karyn Armstrong.
Having taken a keen interest in the lead-up to the moon landing, Karyn had penned a letter to her space hero Armstrong in May congratulating him on his selection as one of the three Apollo 11 astronauts.
Less than a fortnight later Karyn received a letter back from Armstrong that read:
"Dear Karyn. Thank you very much for your nice letter of congratulations. It always pleases me to hear from enthusiastic young people like yourself who take such keen interest in our activities.
"Our recent flights have been all that we could hope for, and we are encouraged to believe that we can reach our goal."
Indeed, that goal was reached this weekend 50 years ago. Where were you watching?
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