First lunar landing warmly remembered

Photo: NASA

Monday marks exactly 40 years since the moment man first set foot on the moon. At that time, in 1969, Czechoslovakia was one of the only Soviet satellite states broadcasting the event. Among those relaying history live to the nation of 15 million on national TV was Antonín Vítek, one of the country’s leading experts in cosmology. He recalled the day for me in his office in the Academy of Sciences.

Photo: CTK
“It was extremely hot in the TV studio. We interrupted the regular TV broadcast every quarter hour for updates. It was almost four o’clock in the morning when the first moon EVA, extra-vehicular activity, started. And we looked at the screen, at the very grey picture of Armstrong stepping from the ladder onto the surface of the Moon. And it was the brightest day, and the brightest moment in my life.”

The moon landing was a particularly powerful moment for many Czechoslovaks, not only because it was an historic achievement, but because it was an American one.

“It was only 10 months after the invasion of the Soviet troops in our country. And not only my two colleagues in the TV studio, but almost all the people in Czechoslovakia were excited that the Americans had beaten the Russians.

I see you have a picture of the Apollo landing on your wall here, what does the event mean to you personally?

“For me, let’s say, it is a historic moment which is very unique. It was the first time that a man from the planet Earth put his foot down on another planet of our solar system. This is something that cannot ever be repeated in the future. It is so unique, that it means the only one such event in the whole of time.”