Wanda Challen remembers exactly where she was when Ohioan Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon 50 years ago, but the historic accomplishment wasn’t the only thing that made the day so memorable for her.
While July 20, 1969 would go on to become one of the most treasured dates in American history, Challen would cherish it for a different reason. It was her wedding day.
Challen is one of dozens of area residents who recalled their memories of the moon landing to the Dayton Daily News for the 50th anniversary today.
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As Challen celebrates her wedding anniversary today, Ohioans will be celebrating the Apollo 11 mission through events in Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta and locally at the Air Force Museum and elsewhere.
Having her wedding on the same day as the lunar landing was just a coincidence, Challen said. Though, getting married during such a big national event presented its own set of challenges, she joked.
“(We) had to keep going to get my brother for pictures because he’d leave the church to go home and watch the moon landing,” Challen said.
Five years after her wedding, Challen and her husband moved into a home on Armstrong Drive in Sidney and have lived there ever since.
For their anniversary, the couple plans to drive to Wapakoneta to partake in some of the Apollo 11 themed events at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta — Armstrong’s hometown — has been celebrating the moon landing anniversary all month.
In the Navy
John D. Sostrom of Beavercreek has fond memories of the moon landing too, but it wasn’t his wedding day. Sostrom was a petty officer 3rd class in the Navy aboard the USS Dewey near Cuba at the time.
Sostrom was pulled out of a training exercise as Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. neared the lunar surface. He remembers dozens of sailors and officers gathered in the ship’s mess hall to watch the landing.
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Everyone on the ship was excited and couldn’t believe it when Armstrong stepped off the Eagle spacecraft and onto the moon, Sostrom said.
“Everyone on board cheered when the words ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ were heard,” he said.
At the time, Sostrom didn’t know that he would actually be involved in the Apollo 11 mission just a few days later. His ship was moved the the Pacific Ocean just outside of the recovery area for the Columbia command module.
The USS Dewey, which Sostrom was aboard, was tasked with watching for any possible issues and civilian boats entering the area just off the cost of Hawaii. Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, completing the Apollo 11 mission.
“It was a fascinating day. It’s one of those days you never ever forget. It became a very strategic turning point in the world,” Sostrom said. “If we ever reach Mars, that’s going to be another one of those times that’s going to turn the world because suddenly we won’t be anchored on this planet any more.”
Listening from the lake
Jim Troutwine of Arcanum was 18 years old at the time of the moon landing. He and his friends were out on a boat on Lake James in Indiana and brought a radio with them to listen to the landing.
Although they couldn’t see the moon from where they were on the lake, Troutwine said the radio broadcast made it feel as if they were right there on the moon with Armstrong and Aldrin. The whole experience was “pretty awesome” Troutwine recalled.
Nearly 34 years later in 2003, Troutwine attended an Aviation Hall of Fame event at the Air Force Museum. When he arrived there he was amazed to see Armstrong.
He walked up to the astronaut and asked for his autograph. Armstrong declined, saying he didn’t sign autographs anymore because people were selling them online.
Instead, the two talked for a moment and Troutwine told Armstrong, who died in 2012 at the age of 82, about his memories from the moon landing.
“I introduced myself, told him my skiing story,” Troutwine said. “I’ll never forget it. I never thought I’d actually get to speak to the man who did that. It was amazing.”
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