ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on Saturday, KRQE News 13 wanted to feature a local connection to Neil Armstrong. The astronaut who took those legendary first steps on the moon left an Albuquerque man with a gift he’ll cherish forever.
Chuck Wendt says back in 2012, he spent two days with the first man on the moon. “He is the hero. He is what every boy thinks of when they think, would you like to grow up and be somebody? It would be Neil,” Wendt says.
Wendt says back then, he was the Deputy Director for the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. He invited Armstrong to preview their new telescope and speak at the observatory’s gala.
“This was a bright sunny Arizona day, and we had it set on Jupiter, and you could see Jupiter plain as day. So he was really impressed by that,” Wendt says.
Wendt says it was an unforgettable weekend, and at the end of his trip Armstrong left him with pictures from Apollo 11’s launch and landing. “He’s the kindest most unassuming person you’d ever meet,” Wendt says.
A couple of weeks later, Wendt says Armstrong sent him something that was out of this world. “I open it up, and it’s the model of the lunar lander…and inside the box was a small card, and he had signed it, Neil Armstrong,” Wendt says.
Wendt says he’s never seen another replica like it. “There’s the steps as you can see, I get a little nervous handling this thing,” Wendt says.
Knowing that it came straight from Armstrong makes celebrating the 50th anniversary all the more special. “It was the thrill of a lifetime for me,” Wendt says.
Wendt says he keeps the lunar lander replica locked away in a safe. Armstrong died just weeks after meeting Wendt back in 2012.