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Title    : Mankind's 'Great Leap' Began 30 Years Ago
Date    :


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (July 16) - Thirty years after Apollo 11 blasted off for the moon, the countdown that sent the three astronauts on their way was rebroadcast today to celebrate the anniversary of the first lunar-landing mission.

Moonwalkers, space program workers and hundreds of others gathered for the festivities.

''It was probably the greatest singular human endeavor, certainly in modern times, maybe in the history of all mankind,'' said Gene Cernan, 65, who became the last man to walk on the moon, three years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first and second.

Cernan got goose bumps, just as he did on July 16, 1969, as he listened to a recording of the final 1 1/2 minutes of the Apollo 11 countdown. The words boomed from loudspeakers, along with the roar of the colossal Saturn V rocket:

''10, 9, ignition sequence start, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero. All engines
running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff! Thirty-two minutes past the hour.
Liftoff on Apollo 11!''

Five hundred people in a park in nearby Titusville cheered as - at zero - Cernan of Apollo 10 and 17, Wally Schirra of Apollo 7, and several other men pushed shovels into the sandy soil where a monument will honor the hundreds of thousands who worked on the Apollo project.

Apollo 11 launch commentator Jack King recalled what a beautiful morning it was - 85 degrees and hardly any clouds - as Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins embarked on their journey.

''There were more than half a million people lining Route 1, lining the causeways and the beaches,'' King remembered. ''There were more than 3,500 of the world's top journalists. There were several thousand dignitaries from throughout the world. And most importantly, there was a majestic Saturn V launch vehicle sitting on Pad A with three calm and cool astronauts on board.''

Schirra noted that in just four days, on July 20, the same date Armstrong and Aldrin stepped onto the moon back in 1969, NASA's first female space commander will be launched. Air Force Col. Eileen Collins arrived with her shuttle crew earlier in the morning; they will fly on Columbia, by chance the name of Apollo 11's command module.

The mood, for the most part, was jubilant, though several Apollo program retirees expressed disappointment over the abrupt end to what they considered NASA's finest hour.

''We haven't been back. We don't have a moon station. I think that's a
crime,'' said Bert Engstrom, 78, who came from California for the
celebration. ''We proved something, but we didn't follow up.''

AP-NY-07-16-99 1526EDT

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.





� Layout Copyright 1998 Adam Finzel - Articles are copyright of the authors