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THEY were joyful. They were uninhibited. They were grandly, gloriously drunk. They were puffing cigars, hugging girls, waving miniature American flags, and pushing each other —fully clothed—into pools. The kissing never stopped. The noise level was astronomical. And so it should have been: the NASA communities of Houston, Huntsville and Cocoa Beach had sent three men to the moon and back. The revelry at splashdown time was fittingly feverish.

At the Nassau Bay motel, across the street from Houston’s Manned Spacecraft Center, NASA engineers, secretaries and technicians gathered around the large pool to feast on barbecued chicken and beef and corn on the cob. Before the sun was down the celebrants numbered close to 3,000, and one of them—a shapely blonde—had been heaved into the pool. A man in a business suit dived after her. Another dived after him. A bikini-clad go-go dancer go-goed it on the diving board (to the low-down accompaniment of a group called “The Astronauts”), while leering spectators grabbed for her, missed, and tumbled into the drink. By dawn, the only thing that moved was the attendant with the heavy-duty vacuum cleaner that was slowly sucking up the mess around the poolside.

Eight Good Men

The big seller at the bar at the Houston Press Club was a little something called “The Moonshot” (two ounces of cognac, three ounces of orange juice, and three ounces of champagne). The concoction was so mesmerizing that many hours later one flight controller was still muttering, to anyone still around to listen, “Don’t forget that behind me there were eight other good men the public never saw. Just remember, that behind me were eight…”

While the rank-and-file celebrated at bars close to the Spacecraft Center, the nabobs of the space industry were rubbing elbows some 35 miles away at Houston’s swank Marriott Motor Hotel. There, 25 Apollo contractors kicked in a cool $20,000 for a more sedate bash featuring pâté de fois gras canapés, massive ice carvings (the handsome, irrelevant figures of an antelope, a pumpkin and two dolphins) atop the serving tables, and an all-star guest list of 2,000, including Dr. Robert R. Gilruth, director of the center, was there, as were Christopher Columbus Kraft and 23 of the 48 active astronauts. Said one guest, as Astronaut Rusty Schweickart walked by: “I don’t know who he is, but he’s one of them.” Jan Armstrong, Pat Collins and Joan Aldrin formed a shortlived receiving line, Mrs. Armstrong taking the honors in a white lace dress and orchid corsage.

Meanwhile, in Huntsville, Ala., site of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the moment of splashdown set off a screaming cacophony of sirens and church bells. With the town at a total standstill for two hours, there was time for a crowd of 8,000 to gather at the courthouse square to greet Rocket Engineer Wernher Von Braun. Von Braun was hoisted off his feet by the sheriff and three city councilmen and carried through the cheering crowd—an experience, he said, that “must have been as thrilling as riding one of our Saturn 5s into space.”

At Cape Kennedy, technicians stayed at their jobs, readying Apollo 12 for its November flight, and did not start their partying until the day’s work was done. Then they poured into nightclubs and bars, waving flags, singing chorus upon chorus of God Bless America, and toasting the moon shot with potent concoctions called “Armstrong Benders” and “Lunar Cocktails.”

Despite the wild enthusiasm, there was little harm done at any of the splashdown brawls. Drunken geologists in Houston paraded around with a decorative boulder they had taken from a motel courtyard, explaining that it was a moon rock. A few barefoot guests at the Nassau Bay motel poolside picked up splinters from broken glasses and bottles. And the four-man police force of the city of Webster (adjacent to the Manned Spacecraft Center) gently arrested a dozen happy drunks. The county sheriff’s officers, however, seemed unable to find any wrongdoers. “This was a proud crowd,” explained Captain Gus George, of the sheriff’s office. “You with me?”

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