Fifty years ago: How the Livingston County Press covered the moon landing

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While some readers interviewed about the Apollo 11 moon landing in the July 23, 1969, issue of the The Livingston County Press News were impressed (“goose bumps” is how one described it), the coverage of the historic event was met mostly with concerns about the cost of the space program and plans for its future.

The most exuberant reaction to the event came from McPherson State Bank in a full-page ad in which it called the moon landing the “most thrilling achievement of man yet known.”

The other reactions didn’t live up to the McPherson State Bank level. In the front-page “What Do You Think of the Moon Landing?” story, Tim Chenoweth tells the reporter that he thought it was “all right.”

“The money could be used for better things but it’s a big step for the technology of mankind. It’s just great,” he said. “There’s not much on the moon, so maybe we’ll go to Mars.”

Karen Bush told the LCP reporter that she had been in the airport at Cleveland and also in Detroit, and that she was surprised at the amount of “involvement of the people watching the TV, even some of the hippies.”

“Terrific it always is to me to be able to live through a moment of history,” she said.

Ken Reed said he thought it was “fantastic,” and that he said so much while watching the landing on TV that he didn’t have much left to say other than he thought the message brought home to the average man is that “space is the next frontier.”

An editorial advocating for a reexamination of the budget of the space program ran last on the edit page, under the lead editorial about waiting for a report from the Livingston County Board of Supervisors about getting involved with something called Electronic Data Processing, and the second editorial encouraging readers to attend the Fowlerville Fair.

Livingston County Press editorial of July 23, 1969: The Moon, Now What?

All Americans can be proud of the moon landings.

The success of the mission of Apollo 11 is a testimonial of the rare courage of a fine group of young Americans, of the dedication of the administrators of the space program, of the complex skills of hundreds of thousands of engineers, designers and workmen, and of the statesmen who set and maintained the goal of a moon landing in the decade of the 1960s.

It is evident that American has regained the prestige it lost with that first Russian “sputnik” in 1957.

But, the question can honestly be asked: Where do we go from here?

The cost of the moon landing, by one estimate, has been $32 billion dollars. Although spread over a decade, this still is a very substantial sum, amounting to roughly one third of our annual national budget, averaged over the period.

While it is unquestioned that the “moon” program has application for national defense, which always is the major part of this national budget, the priority for space, in recent years has tended to lessen. The moon landing, in fact, was made possibly only by a rigorous trimming away of peripheral programs which were not vital to the landing effort.

So, the question which already has been suggested, comes increasingly to the fore: What priority now for further landings on the moon? Should we proceed toward the utilization of the moon as a platform for further space travel?

When should the trip to Mars — or some other plant — which is becoming technically possible, be planned? And what will all this cost? And to what purpose?

In the enthusiasm of the success of Apollo 11, these tough questions cannot be hidden. America does not want, naturally, to lost the initiative and the advantage it has gained. At the same time, despite its incredibly productive economy, now approaching the trillion dollar level, the priorities of space, the needs of other segments of that economy, must be reexamined.

To put the space program price tag into perspective, a story ran in that same issue about the cost of college. The paper pegged the number of Livingston County college students at 1,510, with the cost of attending a public university at $1,600 for tuition, fees, room and board. For those sending students to private colleges, that cost would be around $2,700.

“Fortunately, the number of local families that are able to absorb this kind of economic shock is on the increase,” the story read.

 

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The Livingston Post is the only locally owned, all-digital information and opinion site in Livingston County, Mich. It was launched by award-winning journalists who were laid off from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2009.

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