Apollo Moon Missions: The Unsung Heroes

By Billy Watkins | Go to book overview

2 BRUCE McCANDLESS
Apollo 11 Capcom

The photograph has been used in countless magazine advertisements for an obvious reason: It is a guaranteed page-stopper. An astronaut is shown floating freely in space, nothing connecting him to his spacecraft. His backdrops are the deep black void of space, and a brilliant blue earth and its atmosphere, which looks like nothing more than a thick layer of fog.

It is Bruce McCandless. He flew on two shuttle missions, made the first untethered spacewalk, helped deploy the Hubble telescope, and was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2005. But he is best known to the general public for his voice. McCandless was the capsule communicator in mission control who talked Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin through history's first moonwalk. “OK, Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now.”

“When they were younger, my “two” children would recognize that it was Daddy's voice, when something was shown on television about Apollo 11 and the moonwalk, and “they would” really get a kick out of it,” McCandless says, chuckling. “But that was Neil's and Buzz's show. They were on the moon; they knew what they were doing. Looking back, it's a privilege to have been a part of it.” Typical of most ground-support personnel, he downplays his role.

But that night, in the few hours between the landing and the moonwalk, McCandless couldn't help but wonder: Would he ever have the chance to be where Armstrong and Aldrin were?

McCandless, born June 8, 1937, in Boston, was a member of the third crop of astronauts recruited by NASA—the 1966 class that dubbed itself

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