A resident of Altoona has multiple reasons to remember landing on the moon 50 years ago this month: he oversaw the manufacture of electrical components potentially in Apollo 11 and his niece married Neil Armstrong's family.
Thomas Jerry Ricketts, 72, formerly at Coalport, treasures the black and white images of Kodak he took from his television screen during the lunar walk in 1969. They are even more precious to him because Neil Armstrong autographed them, something the Late astronaut rarely did. .
Although Ricketts did not attend his niece's wedding with Rick Armstrong nearly 20 years ago, his daughter Shelli VanOrman met and danced with the groom's father, Neil Armstrong. The girlfriend, Karen McDonald, grew up in Osceola Mills. The health problems prevented Ricketts from attending, but he gave his daughter the photographs in the hope that he would get the signature of Elder Armstrong.
McDonald interacted with Neil Armstrong throughout the day and the two shared a "Fast dance" Ricketts said. Near the end of the night, he asked for the autograph and the former astronaut agreed. Rick and Karen Armstrong divorced about a year ago, Ricketts said, after about 19 years of marriage.
Ricketts rarely takes the prized photographs out of his protective wrapping (it limits exposure to light in an effort to preserve the autograph, which, in his judgment, is worth a significant amount of money), given the infrequency with which Armstrong provided the autographs To support this, Ricketts shows an article in a newspaper 10 years ago where a check written and signed by Armstrong was sold in an online auction for more than $ 27,000.
Ricketts said he would consider "Serious consultations" of potential buyers. "I'm willing to sell it now so that someone else can enjoy it."
Ricketts' other relationship with the space program came through his supervisory position at Erie Technological, which had a factory at State College.
The plant supplied to NASA "quite" components in Apollo 11. Before the historic landing, the company showed employees a diagram showing where the components made by Erie were located on the ship, Ricketts said.
Filters made by Erie protected against radio frequency interference.
Ricketts does not know for sure if the components "touched" He made the trip, but the 50th anniversary reminds him of the role his old company played in keeping astronauts safe.