Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. Fifty years later, you can read a million stories about astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins. But there were thousands of people involved in the first moon landing, not all of them employed by NASA. Dave Porter was a Navy seaman, a Gunner’s Mate aboard the U.S.S. Hornet in 1969. The Hornet was charged with retrieving the astronauts from the ocean after they splashed down on return to earth. His son, Dave Porter II, shares his father's story, giving us a different point of view on the mission.
“Something not a lot of people know is the men on the Hornet trained for weeks retrieving a dummy capsule in preparation for the actual day. When the day arrived, the radio comms to the astronauts were piped through the ship’s intercom so all the sailors could hear. I believe my dad said he saw the “burn in” and the splashdown, though it was overcast that day. The first time he spotted the capsule, it was floating down through the clouds with the parachutes all deployed.
“The crew was ordered to stay below deck when President Nixon came aboard. There was a lot of excitement, with television crews and the captain and officers meeting the president, though my father didn’t get to talk to him directly. However, that night after everything died down, he took a walk to the quarantine. NASA put the astronauts in quarantine because the scientists didn’t know if the astronauts had brought anything back from the moon such as illness or microbes. Turned out, Neil Armstrong was still up and sitting near one of the observation windows. I believe my father said ‘That was a hell of a ride, wasn’t it?’ and Armstrong replied ‘Sure was!’
Porter was also aboard when the Hornet recovered the Apollo 12 crew. Read his story at Collectors Weekly.