Kranz: Why We Went to the Moon, "I Was a Cold War Warrior"

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Kranz: Why We Went to the Moon, "I Was a Cold War Warrior"

The flight director for Apollo 11 has only one regret from the moment men landed on the moon 50 years ago today.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.--The moment the Eagle ( the lunar module) landed on the surface of the moon 50 years ago, the flight crew couldn't celebrate. 

Gene Kranz, speaking to media at Purdue University this week, said several decisions had to be made immediately between the flight crew and the control room

"I was holding my own breath. Everybody in that room was. You just stopped breathing," he recalled about the moment he received the radio message, "The Eagle has landed". He said that a group of about 100 politicians, and people who had a stake in the project were gathered in a viewing room adjacent to mission control.

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"They erupted in cheering, stomping, right on down the line, clapping and you could hear the sound coming through the double glass windows there and it's seeping into the room. And, my team has to be as cool as a cucumber."

He said the first job, for the first two hours, was to make sure it was safe to stay.

"For the next two hours we never cracked a smile."

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Kranz was the flight director for the Apollo missions and remained in charge of missions for decades, training the teams who would direct astronauts as they walked in space, on the moon and constructed Skylab.

But, the first moon mission was special to him.

"We did it for America. Some of us were Cold War warriors. I was a Cold War warrior. I wanted to beat the Russians, no question about it. Basically, I wanted to capture the high ground of space and make sure it had an American flag on it," said Kranz.

Kranz said his only regret is that his team couldn't celebrate at the moment of landing.

"My frustration is I wish we could do it all over and join the rest of the world at the time we touched down."

PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis

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