Friday, July 24, 2009

Don Blair's Neil Armstrong Photo in RTU

In commemoration of the USS Hornet's recovery of the Apollo 11 astronauts 40 years ago today, this from Don Blair on his capture of this remarkable image:
"The recovery of the Apollo 11 astronauts had been successful. All three were now safely inside the MQF (Manned Quarantine Facility) aboard the great USS Hornet. It was well into the evening when, after too much coffee in the officer's ward room, I decided to head back down to the hangar bay where the two MQF's (NASA always has a back-up or three) were sitting. The one in use was attached by a translucent plastic sheet tunnel to the command module, so that the crew and the two NASA technicians spending the three-week quarantine period in the trailer with them could transit back and forth and de-activate the space craft without exposing all those terrible moon germs to the rest of us. (Of course, there were no germs and the process was dropped after just three moon missions, including the abortive Apollo 13. By Apollo 14 the trailers were history.)

"With my Canon F1 around my neck and loaded with Kodak hi-speed Tri-X black-and-white film, I walked up to the occupied MQF. The only other human being on that deck was a young Marine guard alongside the end window on the trailer. A braided rope ringed the trailer on brass pipe stands...just like in theaters, restaurants, etc. The message was clear: approach no closer.

"So I moved up and pushed my zoom lens to a point where the picture window at the living room end of the AirStream was obliterated, leaving only its occupant standing there....with that ukulele in his hand. How many people can even spell ukulele much less play one? I never could find out what he might have been playing, and I'm sure even Neil wouldn't remember.

"I fired off three quick shots, turned, and walked away. I looked back seconds later and Neil was no longer there. Photo came and went and I had the only picture of that incident--and without flash. The ceiling lights diffused, and I still think they look like halos over the head of a man who had just come as close to a heaven as any man or woman ever might."
Don Blair's Neil Armstrong Photo on the Rock That Uke site.

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