The Apollo 11 landing on the moon 50 years ago was also a milestone for communication in New Zealand - and Ohakea Air Force Base staff played a key role in bringing Kiwis the news.
Kiwis always knew they would not see the lunar landing live; they were used to day-late coverage. Back in the 60s, TV viewers watched international news the following night after it had come via satellite to Sydney, been copied on to video tape and flown across the Tasman on commercial flights.
They would have seen the moon landing a day late, too, if it had not been for Kiwi ingenuity, meticulous planning and a deal done involving the New Zealand and Australian governments, the police, the ABC, the national broadcaster NZBC, the RNZAF, and Customs and air traffic officials in both Sydney and Wellington. New Zealanders would see the moon landing that night, come hell or high water.
RNZAF pilot Gavin Trethewey and navigator Mike Hill took off from Ohakea Air Force Base in a Canberra Bomber on the morning of July 21 and flew to Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport. The pair watched the moon landing on a TV while waiting for staff at the ABC to make copies of the 40-minute tapes and rush them to the airport under police escort.
Trethewey, now 79 and still flying vintage aircraft for Warbirds, reckons he set a transtasman record on the way home, pushing the bomber to its limits and arriving at Wellington Airport at 7pm, two hours and 25 minutes later.
New Zealand Customs gave the precious cargo quick clearance and the tapes were sped by car, with a traffic escort, to NZBC's studio in Wellington. They arrived in time to be shown on the 7.35pm news that night to the whole of the country, in itself a feat of Kiwi ingenuity.
"Secrets of new world unlocked"
That was the headline emblazoned across the front page of the Wanganui Chronicle published on Tuesday, July 22, 1969, which recorded Apollo 11's landing on the moon and "astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin leaping exuberantly across the dusty, rocky surface of the moon" the previous day.
The Chronicle devoted its front page to the historic event and ran stories, an editorial and drawings about the moon landing on various inside pages.
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The newspaper reported locals' reactions, which included "fantastic", "wonderful", "it was beyond our comprehension", "it was a remarkable technical feat".
Whanganui's postmaster CV Jury was struck by the communication of the event.
"The fact that we had live radio coverage only seconds after, and television film of the happening about five hours later, was amazing," Jury told the Chronicle in 1969.
The Chronicle reported that during the afternoon "the city almost ground to a halt" as thousands listened to the radio broadcast of the landing.
"City businessmen reported one of the worst trading days in recent times.
"In shops and workshops men, women and children gathered around radios to follow the progress of the astronauts.
"Few people were on the street. Office girls doing the daily banking returned in record time.
"Storekeepers reported some absenteeism, particularly late yesterday afternoon.
"Hotels which had television sets installed in their bars reported a brisk trade during the showing."
The editorial for the day concluded: "The moon has been conquered now, and no doubt man will turn his attention to the nearer planets."
Fifty years later, people are still in awe of the first moon landing.
Diana Edmonds and her husband Peter lived in Karaka St, Castlecliff, at the time and bought a television so they and relatives visiting from overseas could watch the moon landing.
"There was no way we were going to miss it," Edmonds said.
"The television was black and white of course and only small - the TVs were pretty small compared with what we've got now."
Their son Matt was about 5 at the time and the Edmonds got him out of bed so he could watch the landing on television.
"We had a pool table and his uncles and cousins were busy playing pool with him while we waited in great anticipation," Edmonds said.
"It was that sensation of them actually touching down and the anticipation of it all. It was quite an emotional thing for all of us. It's certainly something you remember forever. There had been such a build-up for days in advance."
Edmonds said scepticism and conspiracy theories about whether the moon landing was real were disappointing.
"I certainly believed, and still believe, in it. We went to Orlando a few years later and saw the whole set-up. It was very much a real experience but also quite surreal at that time that they should be up there."
The family lived in the former Hatrick house on Karaka St and Edmonds said their view of the night sky really added to their interest in the event.
"It was such an open sky where we lived, looking straight out to sea. There were no city lights interfering with it. It all just sort of added to the occasion."
Retired librarian Lynley Fowler recalls the moon landing, which took "an interminably long time", as one of the significant world events that happened during her 50 years with the Whanganui library.
At that time, the library was located in the Alexander Library building at Queen's Park and the occasion of the moon landing resulted in a first at the library as well - the staff were allowed a radio to listen to progress.
"It was just a little transistor radio sitting on the bench and there were usually four or five of us at a time crowding around checking progress," Fowler said.
"The public were also keeping an ear out for it. I don't recall there being a lot of customers around that day so I think an awful lot of Whanganui was at home listening."
It took hours from touching down for the hatch to be opened, Fowler said.
"It took an interminably long time - we couldn't stop that long at work so we'd carry on and go back to the radio to check on progress. They waited a long time after they opened the hatch and then a foot appeared. Of course, we didn't know about [the foot] until it was on television at night. They were obviously doing their checks before they stepped out.
"Of course there was great excitement that day."
Wanganui Astronomical Society president Ross Skilton says the organisation is not marking the anniversary.
"The moon is full at present so it's not suitable for viewing," Skilton said.
The full moon is too bright to see detail of the surface when viewed through a telescope and Skilton says the first quarter moon will be a much better prospect, providing viewings of Saturn and Jupiter as well.
Skilton was at primary school in 1969 and remembers the moon landing.
"I came home from school and watched it on the black and white TV. I'm not sure though whether it was that day or the next day.
"I guess the moon landing was part of the inspiration to get into astronomy but I didn't really get into it properly until I was in my mid-30s. When the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter [in 1994] was when I got hooked."
The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand includes a sub-group that is interested in space exploration but there is no Whanganui branch or members of that group.