News from Corby reached Apollo 11 moon landing astronauts 45 years ago

The front page of the Telegraph on Monday, July 21, 1969
The front page of the Telegraph on Monday, July 21, 1969

It is 45 years this weekend since Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.

But as Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins travelled towards Earth’s satellite in the history-making Apollo 11 mission, the astronauts had news from Corby relayed to them by NASA.

The Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph reports from the moon landings in July 1969

The Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph reports from the moon landings in July 1969

Apollo 11 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969, with Armstrong uttering his immortal words – “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” – from the lunar surface five days later.

On July 18, NASA gave the crew a briefing on the latest news from back on Earth – including the result of a porridge-eating competition held in Corby, something which aimed to raise the profile of the town’s Highland Gathering held the following weekend.

The transcript of the conversation between the astronauts and Bruce McCandless in Mission Control is available on the NASA History Program Office’s website.

After reading out news of the Senate Finance Committee’s income tax surtax plans and results from Major League Baseball, McCandless added: “And in Corby, England, an Irishman, John Coyle has won the world’s porridge eating championship by consuming 23 bowls of instant oatmeal in a 10-minute time limit from a field of 35 other competitors. Over.”

Collins replied: “I’d like to enter Aldrin in the oatmeal eating contest next time.”

He went on to say that Aldrin was eating his share on the mission and was on the 19th bowl of his current meal.

Legend had it that the Corby crater on Mars, named after the town in 1979, took its name from the porridge tale, although that has been disputed.

Another Corby link to the moon landings was reported by the Evening Telegraph on July 18, 1969.

Grandmother Louise Page, 70, from the village of Deene, composed a prayer of peace – copies of which were carried by the astronauts in their capsule.

American broadcasters visited the village to talk to Mrs Page about her composition Come Into Space My Darling, which was dedicated to the Apollo 11 crew.