South Fork revisits the Apollo 11 moon landing

Valley Publishing’s columnist Kevin Kirkpatrick was in top form as greeter for the Apollo 11 presentation in South Fork and even handed out moon pies to guests. Earl Ellisor stands next to his collection of patches from his years as a program analyst for NASA during his presentation of the Apollo 11 moon landing in South Fork. Photos by Lyndsie Ferrell


SOUTH FORK— The South Fork Community Center was packed on July 24 with residents and guests for a presentation by retired NASA Program Analyst Earl Ellisor. The center was adorned with 1960s memorabilia including a photo booth with props. Several of the volunteers helping with the event were dressed for the time period in colorful outfits of tie-dye shirts and bell-bottom pants.
Local author Kevin Kirkpatrick greeted guests as they entered the building, offering free moon pies and dressed to the T in an astronaut outfit, while his trusty sidekick Miss Trixie handed out fake flowers, showering guests with some 60s flower-power. The Chapel of South Fork volunteers were hard at work in the kitchen, making .20 cent hamburgers and .10 hotdogs for the large crowd.
While the crowd waited in line for food, guests were able to look at some of the artifacts collected by Ellisor during his time with NASA. “I worked in the Apollo program from 1968 until 1972 and was the program analyst all four years. It wasn’t until about 1978 that my family and I began vacationing here in South Fork and my wife and I decided to retire here,” said Ellisor.
Tables were set up around the center that were covered with paperwork and artifacts collected by Ellisor throughout his years at NASA including a replica of the Saturn V rocket and patches from all of the Apollo missions. “It was an amazing experience to have and a great opportunity for me. I have become kind of the ambassador for the Apollo Program and I am happy to do it,” said Ellisor.
Ellisor has done this exact presentation of the flight of Apollo 11 several times throughout the years, including during his time as a professor at the University of Houston where he also earned his master’s in computer science. “I studied math and physics prior to getting my master’s through Houston at the University of Texas,” explained Ellisor.
“During the Apollo Program, we didn’t have maps or GPS systems and it was my job to create the mission trajectory for Apollo 11. I worked in a crew with mission trajectory control and mapped out the route for the Apollo 11 and the other Apollo missions until 1972.”
Ellisor began his presentation at 7 p.m. and walked the attending crowd through the trajectory of Apollo 11 from the time it left Florida on July 16, 1969 to the time it landed on the moon on July 24. Ellisor explained the final decent of Apollo 11 onto the moon, stating that the rocket orbited the moon along the lunar equator before making its final landing.
The evening was a hit and enjoyed by all who attended. Due to a rainstorm, South Fork Visitor Center Director Mark Teders was unable to set up his telescope for lunar viewing.
A huge thank you goes out to the Chapel of South Fork, all volunteers and the Town of South Fork for helping to host the event.

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Valley Publishing’s columnist Kevin Kirkpatrick was in top form as greeter for the Apollo 11 presentation in South Fork and even handed out moon pies to guests. Earl Ellisor stands next to his collection of patches from his years as a program analyst for NASA during his presentation of the Apollo 11 moon landing in South Fork. Photos by Lyndsie Ferrell


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