50 years ago: Let the countdown begin


Let the countdown commence,

— commence as in commencement —

the human race about to graduate

from Planet Earth, so it seemed

on a hot Florida evening

— Isn’t Florida always hot in July? —

On a typical Florida evening, clouds building

off the shore of the Kennedy Space Center,

in the cool of the air conditioned Firing Room 1,

a call to stations,

a call to bring the 450 consoles of Firing Room 1



Without bugles or fanfares or ceremony, at 8 p.m.,

July 10th fifty years ago, the master clock,

as if sentient, begins the countdown

time to the second, 93 hrs. on the clock

plus 40 hrs. 32 min. off the clock

to catch up on any work or just rest.

This is the big one we’ve been working on for eight or nine years,

Launch Director Rocco Petrone says as if it needed saying.


The hours counting themselves down

Let’s keep everything moving, Petrone tells the team —

toward 9:32 a.m. on July 16, when if all goes well,

Apollo 11 will lift the world toward another world,

so it seemed.

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