Ragan Edmiston

Former NASA engineer Ragan Edmistion smiles for our television field camera, which he says his bigger than the camera he helped develop 50 years ago to show Apollo 11 astronauts walk on the moon.

RUSTON La. -- One more more look back at the Apollo 11 mission 50 years ago. This one through the lens -- you might say -- of another Hometown Patriot. Ragan Edmiston helped make sure we saw that incredible moment.

What if there was no TV camera to catch man's first step on the moon?

"Surely we're not going to go to the moon without television," Ragan remembers thinking as a Louisiana Tech engineering grad working in Houston for NASA.

But he says some at NASA wanted to scratch a TV camera off the mission because it would add more weight to the lunar module, and sap power. That's even though previous space missions used some basic onboard TV cameras to show America and the world what we could do.

"They were popular. The public really liked that. News coverage was fantastic," Ragan remembers.

So word came from the top at NASA that there would be a TV camera on the lunar module to capture that magical moment by astronaut Neil Armstrong. And Ragan was part of the team to make it happen.

"The phrase came about that the camera shouldn't be bigger than a breadbox," Ragan recalls.

And indeed, they developed a small television camera that could beam a grainy, black and white image back to earth. When astronaut Neil Armstrong went outside the lunar lander, he pulled a d-ring to open a door where the camera was mounted. That opened the window for us all to see.

"At that time I didn't have any space to be awed," Ragan says, adding that he was too caught up in the technicalities of his system to enjoy the moment.

"I was just glad the camera came on. That it had power. And that it had a picture," he says. "My television camera is working good. And I'm thinking about that. (Armstrong's) going to take the camera and move it out on the tripod and let's see how that's going to be. And so when he put it out there it worked good. He didn't point it at the sun, which would've burned it out."

Sure, without the amazing "live" TV signal, we would've had the iconic snapshots from other cameras showing man on the moon for the first time. But that wouldn't be the same.

"The mystery of what did that really look like on the moon with him and human beings walking around there would've never been realized in any of our minds until we saw that television," Ragan says.

Ragan stayed with NASA in Houston for nearly 40 years, continuing to develop better TV cameras for later Apollo missions, like those used to show a lunar liftoff, and a ride on the lunar rover.

Then came space shuttle missions where TV was critical for the astronauts to operate the robotic arm to deploy payloads into space.

Now Ragan can look back in awe.

"It sure looks different to me now. I'm kind of impressed with it," he says with a laugh.

Ragan retired back to his native Ruston. And at age 80, he stays busy as a volunteer for the Christian-based Adult and Teen Challenge, which helps people break the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse.


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