“All engines running. Liftoff. We have a liftoff!”
July 16th, 1969, Apollo 11 launches from the Cape becoming the first manned-spacecraft to land on the moon.
"What an accomplishment and what an inspiration and I'm really glad that there's still young people out there that really want to do it,” said former NASA Astronaut Bruce Melnick.
"I think it proves that we can, when we really figure out, agree on, discover, resolve ourselves to a common greater good goal and mission, we make, we make it happen,” said former NASA Astronaut Nicole Stott.
Stott is a Tampa Bay native and graduated from Clearwater High School.
"I think Apollo 11 is one of these things that happened in history that is all about the future. Everything that was done there was about improving life on earth but also showing how we can do really complex things as human beings when we put our minds to it and when we work together towards this common goal,” said Stott.
Stott worked for NASA for 30 years, spent 15 as an astronaut with the Space Shuttle program and lived 104 days in space — some aboard the International Space Station.
"Astronaut you know like that less than 1% is the time you spend in space,” she said.
Every career moment of Stott’s was touched in some way by Apollo 11's legacy.
"When I think about Apollo, I can consider for sure, the technical, kind of science, complex things that we did to get to the moon, to get humans back to the moon, multiple times and the exploration that went along with it and everything. But I think the thing that comes to mind the most is the fact that we went all the, 200-something thousand miles and back to the moon and we rediscovered earth and that's what I think is so important about this anniversary, is the celebration of exploration, but how it brings us back to earth, to us understanding who and where we all are together in space, on a planet,” she said.
Stott flew two space shuttle missions including the final flight of discovery in 2011 — a launch I witnessed first-hand from Cape Canaveral.
"To me, there are just three simple lessons to come from it and it's that we live on a planet. We're all earthlings and the only border is that line blue line of atmosphere that blankets us all,” said Stott.
"We were the class of '87 and of course, you have the infinity sign here,” said Melnick.
Former NASA Astronaut Bruce Melnick is also reminiscing on the lunar landing anniversary.
"We've shown where we can fly to low earth orbit. We've shown how we can fly to the moon. We're kind've like where Lindbergh was when he crossed the Atlantic as far as space flights are. I mean what's the next giant leap we have to take to get beyond the moon,” he said.
Melnick tells me Apollo 11’s 50th is bittersweet for him.
"I hate to say it, but it's really bitter sweet. You know, I feel like we should be much further down the road, maybe to Mars, maybe have created more have done more. Seems like we get going and then we slow down a little bit. So the bittersweet part of this is, how awesome, how awesome to reflect on it. How awesome is it that we actually accomplished that, that it really did happen, to all your naysayers out there. You know, it really did happen. How sad is it that all those guys aren't still with us? You know, we've gotten old and some of us have gone across the bar, as we used to say in the Coast Guard. How sad is it that we're not further along,” said Melnick.
Melnick believes we'll only reach the next level of space travel through the invention of a new mode of propulsion.
"That's the hard part is that next break-through of how you're going to get to space to where you're not controlling an explosion that's so hazardous. I mean, it's dangerous,” he said.
Dangerous now and dangerous back then but still a calculated risk lifting space innovation and American ingenuity to a new, spectacular level.
"Now we're talking about going back to the moon and establishing a permanent presence there and the Apollo guys that are still around, they are so excited about this because they see it as an extension of what they started. They see it as a way for us to leverage it for the future,” said Stott.
ABC Action News' Taylor Vinson contributed to this report