Eldridge Navy veteran recalls helping recover ‘Apollo 4′ capsule

Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 5:31 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2022 at 8:36 AM CDT
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ELDRIDGE, Iowa (KWQC) - NASA’s new moon exploration program, Artemis I, will launch its first unmaned rocket to fly around the moon and back to Earth, with hopes of sending humans back to the moon within this decade.

An Eldridge US Navy veteran was part of the crew that helped recover the Apollo 4 capsule, which was part of the mission that got man to the moon in 1969.

“I guess I was at the right place at the right time.”

Duane Miller was an aviation electronics technician in the US Navy back in 1967, on board the USS Bennington.

He and his squadron were assigned to pick up the Apollo 4 capsule, the first uncrewed rocket to go around the moon and land back on earth.

“The Bennington was free, we didn’t have any other missions. So away we went and we went to Hawaii. We were there for about, probably a month and a half, to months. Twice a week, we went out with a dummy capsule, lowered it over the side of the ship and then steamed off into the horizon. Helicopters went up and found it, dropped the guys down and practice, practice, practice.”

Miller decided to pull out his super eight movie camera, his spy camera and 35 millimeter camera to capture the recovery of the dummy capsules, and eventually the Apollo 4 capsule.

“They were having troubles down in mission control, Cape Kennedy, or whatever was going on at the time. And they got delayed and delayed and delayed and delayed. And finally it was gone. We steamed out of pearl harbor knowing we were going to get it that day,” said Miller.

“The radar planes spotted it and we could actually see the parachute coming down from the flight deck. That’s how close these people had it figured out with pen and pencil, after that thing goes from earth, circles the moon and comes back down and it can aim it where they want it. It’s amazing,” said Miller.

In 2019, Miller was able to go look at apollo for at a space museum in Pearlington, Mississippi.

“It was kinda neat to think ‘i had my hands on this in 1967. And now here it is, 2019 I guess it was, I had my hand on it again. It felt really neat,” said Miller.

He says it’s neat to watch everything unfold with the Artemis I mission to get astronauts back on the moon.

“They’ve got this capsule. There’s nobody in it. But it’s all set just as if there is somebody. Then they’ll fly the mission and come back and report, ‘this worked, this didn’t work’ and you know, work out the bugs,” said Miller.

NASA’s new moon rocket is scheduled to launch at approximately 1:17 p.m. Sept. 3.