Apollo 50th: How the News Reported the Apollo 11 Landing

My dad has always been a big consumer of news, and as an historian, he has also rountinely kept newspapers from big historic events. The Apollo 11 landing was no exception. In a box in my parents’ basement is a treasure trove of original papers from between July 17 and 24, 1969. This past weekend, I happened to visiting and came across the box, and given the fortuitous timing, I decided to take some pictures (they don’t have a scanner big enough, so apologies in advance) and take a look at how the launch and landing of Apollo 11 was covered in print as it happened.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 17, 1969

The earliest of the newspapers my dad saved, showing the launch of Apollo 11.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 20, 1969
‘The New York Times’, July 20, 1969

Two headlines from the day before the landing. Unfortunately, my dad doesn’t have a copy of the New York Times from after the landing.

The ‘Salt Lake City Tribune’, July 21, 1969

While my parents were living in Denver in 1969 (my sister was supposed to be born on July 20, but she decided to wait a few weeks), my grandparents were living in Salt Lake City, which is how I assume this copy of the Salt Lake Tribune ended up in the collection.

The ‘Salt Lake City Tribune’, July 21, 1969

Unlike most of the other papers, the Tribune had some pretty cool infographics, including this one showing Apollo 11’s flight path to and from the moon.

Worth noting is the other story that made the Times front page that day: the Chappaquiddick incident with Ted Kennedy. At this point, the Times is merely parroting the official Kennedy position.

‘The Kansas City Star’ special edition, July 24, 1969

My dad is originally from Kansas City and to this day has lots of family there. I don’t know which one preserved the Kansas City Star for him.

‘The Kansas City Star’ special edition, July 24, 1969

This is the inside of the paper shown above: a special combined edition of the front pages from the landing, take off from the moon, and return to Earth.

‘The Kansas City Star’ special edition, July 24, 1969

Also inside the special edition was the original headline from the 21st.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

The collection includes three different editions of The Denver Post on the day of the landing. I assume this was the first.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

One of the other editions of The Denver Post.

A fascinating side note here, basically lost to history: a Russian lunar probe crashed into the surface of the moon on the same day the US astronauts landed.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 22, 1969

Another Denver Post edition, this one a “Latest Extra” edition, which presumably came out later in the day to add reporting on the LM’s launch.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

Going beyond the headlines: I decided to work my way through the Denver Post’s July 21 edition to see how the landings were reported throughout the paper. Interestingly, almost every page of the paper had some kind of Apollo-related story.

This being 1969, the paper had a special, very sexist Women’s News section. Because of course, only women would have been interested in the reactions of the wives of the astronauts. And for those not versed in NASA history, the “Astronaut White” referred to in the second headline was Ed White, one of the astronauts killed in the Apollo 1 accident.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

The next page of the Women’s News section.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

The schedule for the events to be broadcast on TV over the course of that and the following day.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

Something that both the Post and Salt Lake Tribune did that was pretty cool was to print a complete transcript of the conversations between the astronauts and Mission Control, from the final descent towards the Lunar surface through the LM liftoff.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

A close-up of the transcript, at the point where Armstrong set foot on the moon.

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The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

The National Boy Scout Jamboree was apparently happening at this time. This year’s World Scout Jamboree is happening next week in West Virginia.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

Several of the headlines from this and the other papers talked with optimism about the kind of future the landings were opening up.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

Another optimistic headline. Today, only four of the twelve men who walked on the moon are alive. The youngest is Apollo 16’s Charles Duke, who is 83.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

Another “look how great the future will be” headline.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

More reporting on the lost Russian probe, along with a brief story about President Nixon calling the moon.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

An interesting little interview with the wife of Robert Goddard, the father of rocketry. Mrs. Goddard died in 1982.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

Visible in the image above is this small piece on other historic first words. It’s interesting to note that the quote noted here are the actual first words spoken from the Lunar surface: “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” instead of the now more famous words spoken by Armstrong when he set foot on the moon.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

A few more cartoons from the Post.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

The editorial page of the Post, with a Pat Oliphant cartoon. Oh, and a piece on Vietnam.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 21, 1969

This was an interesting space-filler about the god Apollo.

The ‘Denver Post’, July 24, 1969

The Post headline from a few days later, celebrating the completion of Kennedy’s mission to “send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth.” Unlike the papers from the day of the landing, this is the only one my dad preserved from the return.

Note that other news is back, including a follow-up story on Chappaquiddick.

Set of moon landing photos from Kodak.

One other thing that was in the box was this set of 8×10 prints. At some point after the landing, Kodak apparently had some kind of offer where you could send away for these prints, which my great-grandfather did.

The note included with the Kodak photo set.

Included in the envelope was this note explaining how the astronauts used Kodak cameras on the moon.

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