Hawai’i celebrates storied history with Apollo program on 50th anniversary of Moon landing

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Windward Community College held a Spacefest today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Among the artifacts and photos on display were space rocks from the Apollo 11 and 17 missions.

“Hands down the highlight of this exhibition are the moon rocks.” said state archivist Adam Jansen.

“We have both the Apollo 11 moon rocks and the Apollo 17 moon rocks that were gifted to the people of Hawai’i.”

The exhibit also featured a pair of Hawaiian flags from the two Apollo missions.

“Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 crews also took a Hawaiian flag down to the lunar surface and brought it back and gifted it to the people of Hawaii.” Jansen added.

Hawai’i has an extensive history with the Apollo Space Program, which started with astronauts visiting the Big Island in 1965.

“So it all started back in the mid 1960’s.” Jansen said.

“All of the Apollo astronauts came to Hawaii to train because the Big Island lava fields offered the environment that the NASA scientists thought most simulated the environment that they would be likely to encounter on the moon. So starting in 1965 groups of astronauts, 7-8 of them at a time, would fly into Honolulu, spend a few days at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, learn the Hula, get a lei greeting, take in some of the local styles, some of the food and drink, and then fly over to the Big Island to test out some of this new equipment because they had to be very light, very functional, multi utilitarian and learn how to use it here before they were 30,000 miles away and had to figure out how to use it.”

When the crew of the Apollo 11 mission landed back on Earth, their first stop on land came at Hickam Air Force Base.

“So the Apollo 11 astronauts splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and were immediately plucked out and placed on the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier.” said Jansen.

“Because of the fear of space germs, NASA didn’t know would they be bringing back some type of plague that would wipe out the human race, so they put the Astronauts into a quarantine trailer, an Airstream that was modified for them and then brought them back in this trailer. The first piece of land that they set foot on was Pearl Harbor but because of that fear they actually trailered the entire, they lifeted the whole trailer off of the aircraft carrier, put it on a flatbed truck, drove it from Pearl Harbor to Hickam Air Force Base and had it wait there until it could get loaded onto a C141 and get flown back to Houston. So the Astronauts were actually here in Honolulu for a short period of time in their Airstream trailer.”

Jansen believes that Hawai’i was instrumental in helping one of the greatest achievements in human history.

“In my mana’o if it wasn’t for Hawai’i there would not have been an Apollo program. From the training through the recovery. The tracking stations, the observatories on the Big Island,Kauai, Maui, North Shore, it would not have happened.”

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