Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin wearing his Omega Speedmaster (NASA file photo)
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin wearing his Omega Speedmaster (NASA file photo)

LOS ANGELES, Jul 3, 2009 / FW/ — It was the ultimate thriller. The date and time: July 20, 1969 at 4:18 PM EDT (July 21 1969 at 02:56:20 GMT). With only 30 seconds of fuel remaining, the lunar module carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the moon surface.

Armstrong radios, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” And it became one of the defining events in history.

Equipped with the high-tech devices of the era, the best products that the world had to offer that time, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent 21 hours on the moon. How did they tell time? With the Omega Speedmaster.

To mark its proud association with one of mankind’s greatest adventures, for the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, Swiss watchmaker OMEGA brought four of the surviving Moonwalkers (the group of select men who walked on the moon during the Apollo era), together along with some of the other luminaries from NASA’s Apollo program.

The original Omega Speedmaster
The original Omega Speedmaster

Buzz Aldrin was joined by his colleagues Charles Duke (Apollo 16), Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) and Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17). Also on hand were Thomas Stafford (Apollo 10), Apollo flight director Gerald Griffin and James Ragan, the NASA engineer who was responsible for the rigorous testing which led to the OMEGA Speedmaster’s selection as the only watch qualified for all of the space agency’s piloted flights.

Nearly forty years after the adventures that placed their names in the history books, the astronauts shared their vivid recollections of their missions and of the things only a handful of human beings have seen.

They also recalled President Kennedy’s audacious aim, voiced in 1961, of landing a man on the Moon and bringing him safely home before the end of the decade. At the time, one American astronaut had been in space for less than 16 minutes.

The astronauts speculated on what it would take to rekindle the enthusiasm to return to the Moon and more distant frontiers.

The space pioneers talked about the OMEGA Speedmaster which was part of each one of NASA’s manned missions since May 15, 1963. It was the first and only watch to be worn on the Moon and was, according to James Ragan, “the only piece of hardware on Apollo which was unmodified throughout the program.”

It was a remarkable thing to see these men together in one place – they represented all of us in some of our finest hours and reminded us of what we can accomplish when we are united behind a common goal.