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July 15, 2019

T-MINUS 5 DAYS: Two Former Employees Discuss Motorola’s Role in the First Moon Landing

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, we are revisiting our archives to reflect on our history of “firsts” and how it has shaped our commitment to innovation through mission-critical communications.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon, calling it, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." These words were heard by millions of people around the world, a feat made possible only by a Motorola radio transponder.

In an interview broadcast on Motorola Government Electronics Division employee TV News just five days prior to the moon landing, Motorola employees Joe Patrick and Phil Wright discussed the company's role in U.S. space missions, including multiple Mars exploration trips and Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission in 1969.

“We have produced equipment for every manned space mission and most of the major unmanned missions, and we have never had a failure of any of our equipment,” said Wright, former director of operations support.   

The Motorola equipment used during the Apollo 11 mission was the astronauts’ sole connection from the moon back to Earth.

“When the spacecraft reaches a point about 30,000 miles out, they lose their very high frequency (VHF) communications, and this unit becomes their only communications link with Earth,” said Wright. “If this unit goes out, the astronauts will be talking to themselves and nobody else in the universe.”

Motorola supplied thousands of semiconductor devices, ground-based tracking and checkout equipment, and 12 on-board tracking and communications units.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first two astronauts to emerge from the lunar module “Eagle” and walk on the moon. According to NASA, the astronauts also returned to Earth the first samples from another planetary surface. Apollo 11 achieved its primary mission – to perform a manned lunar landing and return to Earth – that paved the way for the many Apollo lunar landing missions to follow.

Our legacy global mission-critical communication continues today with our industry-leading platforms in command center software, video security solutions and managed and support services.

Click here to read the full interview.

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