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They Came for the Moon: 50 Years of Apollo 11 From Those That Built It

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"They Came for the Moon: 50 Years of Apollo 11 from Those That Built It" panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 - (L-R) Ray Hedgpeth (Columbia Space Center), Lovell Stoddard (Apollo 11 engineer), Mat Kaplan (Planetary Radio.)
“They Came for the Moon: 50 Years of Apollo 11 from Those That Built It” panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 – (L-R) Ray Hedgpeth (Columbia Space Center), Lovell Stoddard (Apollo 11 engineer), Mat Kaplan (Planetary Radio.)

No one would ever mistake San Diego Comic-Con for the Sea of Tranquility; nevertheless, they did celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with a panel that included one of the Apollo 11 engineers, Lovell Stoddard, responsible for helping to design the heat shields used in the Apollo missions.

The panel began with a raucous and rocking music video titled “One Giant Leap” by an ultra-nerdy band called The Ameoba People, which includes two of the panelists (Ryan Mosely and Ray Hedgpeth, both of the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, California — a city where many of the actual Apollo spacecraft were built.)

Stoddard recounted his memories of being a part of the 400,000 people who worked on the Apollo program, and became quite emotional recalling the importance of the mission and the way the entire team was giving their all to do a good job and how everyone respected the work they were doing.

The average age of the engineers who took America to the moon and back was only 27 years old; Stoddard revealed he was only 25 when he began working on the program.

The panelists showed slides and discussed some of the Apollo command module heat shield experiments. Stoddard was surprised with the gift of a piece of one of the heat shields he had helped to design.

Apollo heat shield
Apollo heat shield

Stoddard also brought and shared his collection of NASA mission patches, including every single one from the Mercury and Apollo programs.

NASA patches
NASA patches on display

Mat Kaplan of Planetary Radio led a discussion on the future of space travel, both back to the moon and eventually to Mars. The late 2020s may even see the exploration of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. 

The panel wrapped with Stoddard leading the crowd to a sing-a-long of “Fly Me to the Moon,” a perfect way to celebrate this special day in history at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.