1969 / by Chris Dahl


I was brought back to this year a few weeks ago at a SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers) meeting at the Techwood Campus of Turner Broadcasting. I sat next to a gentleman that is producing a documentary about the old abandoned launch pads NASA has used over the years.

He was excited about the new Apollo 11 documentary. For a back story on this movie Read this article in Vanity Fair Magazine.

The movie trailer is here.

I was 12 years old in 1969 when Apollo 11 carried a crew to the moon. There was no Internet and there were only 3 or 4 TV channels. Believe it or not, 24 hour news stations did not exist.  So for a 12 year old boy interested in space travel there were limited resources. Events like this were discussed around the family dinner table and watched on TV (If Dad wanted to watch).

By the time I turned 15 years old my interest in photography had grown and was shooting 35mm film on a limited budget. I had actually saved my money from my thriving business of cutting my neighbors yard and my grandfathers farm work and purchased an Exacta 35mm camera.

Through books in the public library I found information on how to take photographs of a TV screen, so I set off to capture this historical event in the comfort of my parents home in Cobb County Georgia.

In 1972 when Apollo 17 was being readied for flight I had gathered enough courage and information to make my own historical record of the flight. I set the camera up on my dads tripod and sat on the floor in front of a console TV and snapped photos as the events occurred in front of me.

Those were simpler times when families would sit and discuss events at the dinner table. These events had become a family affair that we all got to watch together.

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Little did I know that the space program would keep my interest for years to come. And as luck would have it I had a job at a photo lab that was purchased by a UK firm, Photobition. This firm bought many labs in the USA.

One of the labs was in Orlando, I was asked to install an Order Entry system that we used in the Atlanta and Detroit labs. Once I arrived on site I found out they managed the contract to operate the NASA photo lab.

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I was invited down to the NASA lab to tour the lab and watch STS-97 Endeavor launch on November 30, 2000.. The lab manager gave me a tour of the facilities. We ventured into a room that had a vault like look a feel. He went to a cabinet and pulled out a drawer. From there he thumbed through files of negatives. HE pulled a sleeve with Apollo 11 moon landing images. and handed them to me to look at.

What a thrill to see and hold negatives that had flown from the earth to the moon a back.

Later that evening we went outside for a Shuttle launch. The building where the lab was near the viewing area where the press and other VIPs are invited to watch.. I stood within feet of the iconic countdown clock.

When the shuttle lifted off the thrusters lit up the night sky as if it were daylight and the noise pounded my chest. I only have a few photos taken with an early Kodak digital camera, it did not have the speed or range to capture the event.

Sadly the Shuttle program ended in July of 2011 with STS-135.

I am still following other NASA programs and Space-X. Maybe one day I can experience the excitement of space travel up close like I did in when I was 15 and again at age 44.

Thank You,

Chris