Red letter moonwalk day relived

Childhood correspondence with Neil Armstrong unearthed


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Alan MacDonald, Charleville with the framed letter he received from Neil Armstrong.

Alan MacDonald, Charleville with the framed letter he received from Neil Armstrong.

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Memories of a starstruck six-year-old and a couple crying at the sight of a star - these were just two of the magic moments that were relived at the moon landing anniversary in Charleville.

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Memories of a starstruck six-year-old and a couple crying at the sight of a star - these were just two of the magic moments that were relived in Charleville on the weekend when the Cosmos Centre commemorated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

The moment that Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the surface of the moon in 1969 is one of those times that everyone remembers by where they were and what they were doing.

For Blackall's Alan MacDonald, his parents and his siblings, it was characterised by a helter-skelter rush from their car into a small cafe in the town of Condamine.

His father Nigel recalled that the family had set off for the long drive to Brisbane at dawn with the car radio broadcasting the latest developments throughout the day as the lunar module edged towards the moon's surface.

"We drove into Condamine right at the cusp of Armstrong stepping down," he said.

"We saw through the window that this shop had a television set going so we pulled up and rushed inside.

"Anyone watching us would have thought we were mad, but we were just in time to see the moment that foot went on the moon."

The trip with the radio commentary and subsequent excited chatter made such an impression on young Alan that he wrote a carefully worded letter to the astronaut, complete with a drawing of a rocket.

Never in any of the family's dreams did they expect a reply but some time later an envelope from NASA arrived in the property mailbag, containing a letter of thanks signed by Armstrong himself.

The signed letter received by Alan.

The signed letter received by Alan.

It was carefully put away and proudly displayed by Alan, now living in Charleville, on the weekend.

Read more: Planetarium a giant leap for Charleville

It's one of many personal memories of an achievement shared by the whole world at the time and one that Charleville's Cosmos Centre coordinator Mike Dalley is fortunate to see over and over.

"I have a healthy respect for the ways people connect with the stars," Mr Dalley said, sharing a very emotional moment when a couple booked a private viewing for a star they'd purchased the naming rights for.

As they looked through the telescope at their star for the first time and started crying and embracing, Mr Dalley learnt they'd named the star after their daughter who had died at the age of two.

This was the first time they'd seen the star in the three years that had passed.

"I was the person that let that happen," Mr Dalley said. "As a scientist, my job isn't to tell people how to connect with space; it's my job to explain it and help them find their connection."

The envelope the letter from Neil Armstrong came in.

The envelope the letter from Neil Armstrong came in.

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