VERO BEACH — Forty years ago this coming Monday, rising to the challenge of President John F. Kennedy, American astronauts walked on the moon and Americans back home watched it live on television. Saturday, about 150 kids in Vero Beach relived this historic event.Americans were riveted to their TV screens when the words of Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong burned forever in their memories as he landed on the moon’s surface at 10:56 p.m. on July 20, 1969 and said, “That’s one small step for man, one great leap for mankind.”On Saturday, led by Miss Julie, the kids counted down the launch and re-enacted the landing, pretending to steer the lunar module and then to jump out for a moon walk. The Vero Beach Book Center’s Lunar Landing party in the Children’s Store of the Book Center taught kids about the heyday of the Apollo program with stories, activities, crafts and Tang.Madisun Adams, 7, of Vero Beach tasted the orange drink developed for astronauts for the first time and discovered she liked it. She also discovered a new interest in space.”I learned how they actually landed on the moon and what they did,” she said. “I think walking on the moon would be like jumping on a trampoline, jumping in the air.”The Apollo 11 mission fulfilled President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s, which he expressed during a speech given before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961. Kennedy had laid out this challenge to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, formed in 1958, by saying:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Sue Westendorf, who owns a vacation home in Vero Beach, brought her 5-year-old grandson, Matthew, to the Lunar Landing party.”He loves space and loves going to the space center when we are down here from Ohio,” she said.Westendorf was 23 years old when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edward “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the moon. “I just remember how exciting it was that someone had actually walked on the moon. That was monumental to get to the moon, we were all so focused on it,” she said. “President Kennedy worked so hard to get us there and then we got there and he wasn’t here to see it.”NASA, which has been gearing up for this anniversary by releasing footage of the mission and other memrobilia, will be celebrating all weekend, with ceremonies in Washington, D.C. on Monday.