Flight controller remembers his part in historic Apollo 11 lunar landing

HOUSTON – When Ed Fendell joined NASA in 1964, he first served as a remote site capsule communicator. 

He wound up in the Apollo program as an assistant flight director before he was made the head of the communications section. It’s a job, he said, he was destined to do. 

Nearly 50 years after man first walked on the moon, Ed Fendell remembers how he felt sitting inside mission control, right before Apollo 11 landed on the lunar surface back in 1969. 

He handled the command module and communications. 

“I actually felt like I was levitating off the chair. I didn't feel like I was touching anything because it was so tense and exciting,” Fendell said. 

He worked at mission control for several Apollo missions. He said when he first started at NASA, there were no workbooks or formal training classes. You just found a way to get the job done. 

“You had to find somebody who knew something about that subject. That person then taught you what you needed to know,” Fendell said. 

He is most recognized for his work on the final mission of the Apollo program in 1972. He used a camera mounted on the lunar rover to perfectly capture the lunar liftoff of the Apollo 17 Lunar Module Challenger. 

“People got to call me 'captain video'. My picture was in the paper. I was on television. All the things that went with it,” Fendell said. 

Now, five decades later, still proud of what his team accomplished, he hopes the next generation will experience the same sense of wonder. 

“I don't look at it like we were there. I think about how bad it is that we are now 48 -- 50 years as you come on and we have not gone back,” Fendell said. 

After the Apollo program, Fendell continued working for NASA. He retired from there in 1984.

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