In the heyday of the United States’ race to the moon, Eugene Ray Sr., was a contractor working for NASA as a manager of flight support operations.
From island locations around the globe, he tracked manned space missions on radar.
And so in July 1969 when the Apollo 11 astronauts lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral was stationed on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean.
That historic mission landed astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon’s surface in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969.
Both men walked on the moon with Armstrong exiting the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle first.
The event was televised live around the world and millions of earthbound watchers listened to Armstrong’s words, “one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.”
Although his father played a key role in the mission, 9-year-old Eugene Ray Jr., wasn’t among those watching that night.
The reason? There was no television reception on Antigua.
The younger Ray is now 59 and has honored his late father with a display of Apollo 11 memorabilia at Purcell Public Library.
Ray’s wife is Bonnie Ray, a librarian here.
Ray said his father had worked for NASA “quite some time,” but his employer’s contract wasn’t renewed after the Apollo 11 mission.
He returned to the States and began a job search.
By the time NASA offered him his old job back, he had started work for Digital, developing tests of the firm’s equipment.
Ray said his father was in the Signal Corps in the Army and utilized his Army training while working for NASA.
“He never went to college,” Ray said. “If he had, he probably would have been an electrical engineer. He was very smart.”
Ray said his father died in October 2017.
Included in the library display are models of the command module capsule, Columbia, and Eagle.
There is also a Neil Armstrong autograph which belongs to Joe Bob Dawson.
Bonnie Ray said Dawson acquired the autograph after reading a book at the library which listed famous people who would give autographs if you wrote to them.
The items will remain on display through July.