Astronaut Neil Armstrong achieved world history when he became the first man to step foot on the moon on July 20, 1969 as part of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said, expressing words that became unforgettable.
Among the men and women who played a crucial role in helping the United States’ space program achieve the moon landing was Crossville resident Almous Calhoun, who served as quality control for the Apollo 11 mission through his job with IBM in Huntsville. Calhoun worked for IBM in Huntsville for 11 and a half years, commuting from his Sand Mountain home.
Calhoun, who turned 89 on Oct. 22, reflected on his contributions to the space race during a fall interview with The Reporter.
“They [IBM] had a signed contract on the space program,” Calhoun said. “They built 13 of those birds — everything that flies is a bird, you know. Ten of them were manned flight uses. They assigned a quality man to every bird.
“At the time they assigned us those units, they didn’t know what mission they would be flying. The one that put the men on the moon happened to be my unit.”
Armstrong (mission commander), Michael Collins (command module pilot) and Buzz Aldrin (lunar module pilot) were the members of the Apollo 11 crew. The mission lasted from July 16-24, 1969.
“I didn’t think about it in that respect back then,” Calhoun said of helping make world history. “I guess as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I was a key to the thing. I think more about it now than I did back then. That’s how come all them gray hairs in my head.
“Quality control had all the responsibility, but they didn’t have no authority. Manufacturing wouldn’t do nothing until they called us. They had work orders and we’d stamp it off and they’d start to work on it, and when they’d get it done, they’d call us back and we’d have to look at it and inspect it and stamp it off again.
“I forget how many quality men we had. Like I said, we had all the responsibility, but we didn’t have no authority. We covered everything. They didn’t do anything without quality told them to.
“I nicknamed myself when I was over there. One day, they called me and told me they were going to do so and so in manufacturing. I said, ‘no, no, no, no — not as long as this daddy rabbit is around here.’ And from then on, they called me ‘Daddy Rabbit.’
“Back then, there were a lot of things we could talk about it and there was some things we couldn’t talk about, and they told us that. So, it was easier on me to never talk job at the house because there would be things I could talk about and things I couldn’t talk about.”
Calhoun and his late wife, Debbie, had four children —Tammy Whitworth, Cindy DeBerry, Dr. Alan Calhoun and Lisa Willoughby. Whitworth and Willoughby are retired teachers, DeBerry works for Koch Foods and Alan Calhoun is a hospitalist for Marshall Medical Center South in Boaz.
“I was cleared for top security at this time,” Calhoun said. “I don’t see how some of these people that’s got these jobs [now], I don’t know how they got cleared for top security if they done them like they done me
“They called me when they were clearing me. I said, ‘how did you know about that,’ and he said we’ve got a way of finding out things.”
Whitworth recalled Calhoun’s immediate and extended family gathering to watch the moon landing.
“We had a big party at Mom and Dad’s house to watch when the spacecraft landed,” she said. “We were all young. I remember as kids we were excited because Daddy had helped do this.
“And Grandmother Calhoun that whole time just sat in her chair, and she was just rocking and said, ‘That’s not a bit so, that’s not a bit true.’ She never believed that they landed on the moon.”
Whitworth said IBM offered to fly Calhoun and his co-workers to Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral), Florida, to watch the liftoff of the Apollo 11 mission, but her father declined the offer because he didn’t like to travel.
“People don’t realize how much they got out of the moon program,” Calhoun said in reference to modern science and technology. “They say, ‘well, they spent a lot of money for nothing.’ At hospitals they do CAT scans, and that came out of the moon program. A lot of this stuff we do came out of the moon program.”