The Main Stream

Jul 18, 2014 7:10 PM by John Overall

University of Arizona celebrates the 45th Annivesary of Apollo 11

TUCSON - On Sunday The University of Arizona is celebrating the 45th anniversary of the first moonwalk. The university is hosting an open house at the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ewen Whitaker is a British born astronomer who moved to Tucson in 1960 to help start up the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona.

Whitaker worked on several NASA missions and he played an instrumental role in choosing where Apollo 11 would touch down on the moon 45 years ago.

Long before man first walked on the moon Ewen Whitaker helped lay the ground work. "We were told by NASA, you are going to map the moon," Whitaker said.

Whitaker and three others worked in small quonset huts on the campus of the U of A. Using his early maps Whitaker made the call on where to land Ranger seven, the first spacecraft to capture closeup photographs of the moon's surface.

"Me having decided where Ranger 7 should photograph was really, uh huh, something I did right," said Whitaker with a chuckle.

The photographs from Ranger 7, helped Whitaker map out the perfect landing spot for Apollo 11. "We tried to pick out from our earth based pictures, and from the orbiting pictures of closeups of the moon, to say where to land and where not to land otherwise you'd tip over."

Nine years after moving to Tucson to work on the first moon mapping mission Whitaker was in Houston watching Neil Armstrong make history as the first man to walk on the moon.

"Yea, it was exciting but it was your job and you liked your job so really we were getting money for old hopes," Whitaker said.

He's now 92 years old. But Ewen Whitaker is still passionate about space and he's still filled with pride for being a part of such an historic event.

For information on the Universities celebration, "Everything Lunar: Celebrating the Past, Exploring the Future" go to


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