On July 20, 1969, the world changed forever. For the first time in the history of humanity, people stepped foot on an astronomical body that wasn’t Earth. It ushered in a new era of possibility for people on Earth, and fascinated people all over the world.
Kevin Gerfen, an adjunct instructor of aviation at Oklahoma State University, watched the moon landing as a 13 year old living in Cushing. He said he was the only member of his family who was dying to watch the historic event unfold on TV.
“I remember we were actually in Drumright visiting a rail road museum that afternoon,” Gerfen said. “I was kind of throwing a fit because I wanted to come back home and watch this on TV. I was kind of the only one in my family who was really that interested in coming home and watching it on TV. But they finally gave in to my request, and so we came home and we did watch it on TV.”
Gerfen, a self described airplane and space nerd in his early teens, said he had a model of the rocket in his bedroom. He said he was following the space program before Apollo 11, and had already been inspired by the scientific achievements taking place before the moon landing. He said he took pictures of Apollo 11 unfolding on the TV due to his interest.
“We had a black and white Polaroid camera with black and white film, and I took several pictures of the TV screen using that camera,” Gerfen said. “At the time, that was the only way you could make a copy of what you saw on TV.
“So the family ended up watching it with me and they were really interested, and after later on my mother had an idea of taking a picture of the family looking at the moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on the moon at the time.”
Gerfen, his two sisters, Debbie Jo and Jawana, and their father, Harold, all looked up at the moon following watching the moon landing on TV as their mother, Pansy, snapped the photo. It was the last photo the family has of Harold, as he died less than one month later. Gerfen said looking up at the moon after having just watched two people walk on the surface was a special experience.
“I thought it was just genuinely cool. We were literally looking at the moon, while two humans, for the first time in the history of the world and humanity, were on the moon,” Gerfen said. “We had gone outside to watch right after they had gotten back inside the space capsule, and weren’t walking at that moment, but had just done that. We were looking at the moon saying, ‘There are two people up there, two men, two human beings, and they’re Americans.’ And I thought that was really neat.”
The cost of the Apollo program was $25.4 billion from 1961-72, about $150 billion in today’s terms. But with the tremendous cost came a wave of positives for the world and America.
“We got a lot out of it, not only in terms of the commercial products that we use and take for granted every day, but also the prestige of the United States,” Gerfen said. “It was nice, too, that essentially the world came together, at least for a little while, and had shared in this same worldwide human experience of watching men walk on the moon.”