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'No different than your dad going on a business trip': Apollo families reflect on Moon mission

'One of man’s greatest adventures'
Posted: 6:33 PM, Jul 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-17 18:33:15-04
'No different than your dad going on a business trip': Apollo families reflect on Moon mission

COCOA BEACH, Fla. -- This week, the nation has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo launch and Moon landing. Though Neil Armstrong taking the iconic first step on the lunar surface, July 20, 1969, is often best remembered-- it took the effort of many astronauts in the Apollo program to make it happen.

 
In the years since, those men have ended up in TV shows, books or major motion pictures. 

But to their families, the mission to the Moon was just dad’s job.

 
“I used to say, it’s really no different than your dad going on a business trip," said Tracy Cernan, whose father Eugene Cernan was a part of Apollo 10 and 17. "He just went a little further than some.”
 
Cernan and a panel of other astronaut families met in Cocoa Beach last weekend to reflect on experiences while their fathers spent time in space. To the, now grown, children-- "normal" had exceptions, like national press attention.
 
“You knew whose father was going up," said Russ Schweickart, son of Rusty Schweickart, who flew on Apollo 9. "There was a mass of people outside your front door.”
 
Sometimes it was too much attention. Cernan recalled a time when an overzealous reporter scaled her family's back fence.

"To get a picture of mom and I in the swimming pool," she said. "As soon as she saw him— and he saw that she saw him— he turned around."

 

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Lovell said he never felt shy in front of press cameras. He remembered photographers nabbed a few pictures of him peering from under his family's garage door or on the front patio.

 
“Believe me," he said, "even though I was young, I loved to get my picture taken by the media.”
 
Lovell's childhood ended up in the 1995 Oscar-winning film Apollo 13. The movie starred Tom Hanks, who played the role of Lovell's father, one of the three crew members of the damaged spacecraft, fighting to get home.
 
“It’s very, very accurate," Lovell said. "But, look, there is artistic licensing. There’s only so much you can do in a two-hour movie and you have to create drama.”
 
Many times that drama was real. The families remembered the loss of the Apollo 1 astronauts, Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee, who died in a fire on the launchpad.

Though her mother tried to shield her from the risks of spaceflight, Cernan said there were times she could still sense the danger, despite her young age.

 
“When dad was walking on the moon," she said, "you could feel — oh it’s a little anxious in here.”
 
Even during the frightening times, the families said they wouldn't trade their childhoods. For Lovell, his youth was an unforgettable experience.
 
“I had a front-row seat to one of man’s greatest adventures,” Lovell said. “That’s what I love to be able to do— continue to tell the story of where we had come from and continue that, hopefully, when we go back to the Moon in 2024.”

The Apollo lunar flights ended in 1972. Since then, no human has returned to the surface of the Moon. Plans are in the works to change that. NASA would like to have astronauts return by 2024.