Historical Highlights

A Congressional Delegation Witnesses the Apollo 11 Spacecraft Launch

July 16, 1969
A Congressional Delegation Witnesses the <i>Apollo 11</i> Spacecraft Launch Image courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration The names of Representatives listed above joined those of other luminaries etched on a disc carried by the Apollo 11 astronauts on their journey to the Moon.
On this date, approximately 250 Members of Congress traveled to Cape Kennedy, Florida, to watch the historic launch of the Apollo 11 spacecraft on its way to the Moon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) offered free flights to Members to witness the landmark event. Representative Robert Kastenmeier of Wisconsin, who did not travel to the launch, nevertheless took to the House Floor that day to praise what he called “our space team. I wish them a safe trip and every success,” he said, “and while our astronauts are on the moon, I hope they will pick up and bring back some of that surface, because Mr. Speaker, being from Wisconsin, America’s dairyland . . . I want Wisconsin dairy producers to be reassured that the moon’s surface is not made of potentially competitive green cheese,” an allusion to an old myth. To honor the House’s support of the Apollo 11 project over the years, NASA used electronic technology to etch the names of a number of lawmakers onto a disc the size of a 50-cent coin that the astronauts planned to leave on the Moon. Those names included Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts and other House leaders, members of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, and members of the House Committee on Appropriations. The disc also contained messages from 73 countries, quotes from four presidents, and the names of people whose work had proven integral to the Apollo 11 project—each etching shrunk to a microscopic size almost invisible to the naked eye. On July 20, four days after taking off from Cape Kennedy, the spacecraft landed on the Moon, and the disc was left as a symbol of goodwill from Earth. A few months later, the Apollo 11 crew members spoke before a Joint Meeting of Congress and presented the Speaker with a flag that they had carried to the Moon.

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