SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Fifty years ago, the Apollo 11 crew was preparing to do what had never been done before: land on the moon.
As Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins went over their final preparations, thousands of people headed to Cape Canaveral to watch the launch, including Bill Whitten.
The former Savannah Morning News reporter spoke about his experience covering this historic mission.
"To see this giant rocket which is about as tall as the Washington Monument, if you can imagine that, start to lift off and it lifts off so very slowly. It's just that the hope of the country and really the world, that this if going to be a success,” Whitten said.
Whitten, a Savannah High and Armstrong graduate, was one of the estimated 3,000 reporters covering the launch.
"We are getting all of these reports of these million plus people that have flooded Brevard County. Over the loud speaker system, you are getting updates on what the astronauts are doing as they reach the pad, climb up and get in,” Whitten said. "I think you go through that anxious period. Particularly since they had things like the Apollo fire and there are so many thousands of things they are working together, must work together and you just know that maybe some little something is going to go wrong.”
Once all systems were deemed safe by mission control, Whitten became a witness to history.
"And then of course the countdown comes, and they go in to that 10, 9 ,8. People start chanting along and then when it ignites people start chanting go, go, go until it clears the tower,” he said.
In total, Whitten has covered around 30 manned missions to space, and obtained quite the collection of memorabilia. Including, Kapton thermal protection foil from the Apollo 11 Command module and an American flag flown over the United States Capital after Neil Armstrong's death.
Some of Whitten's press passes and space related toys are currently on public display inside the Savannah City Hall.
"All of those things just kind of inspire me. It is such a great program and it is such full of exploration, excitement, science and technology, that children, their parents need to get children involved,” Whitten said.
He hopes that the current generation will take the same interest in space as his did when they were inspired by the Apollo missions.
"Anyone can go out at night and look up and see the moon and think, twelve of us walked on that, we were able to do that, we need to do it again,” Whitten said.
If you are interested in visiting the exhibit, it will be under the Savannah City Hall rotunda through the end of the month.