'Our adrenaline was pumping': Apollo 11 recovery crew recalls playing a part in space history 50 years later

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- Fifty years ago, the Bay Area and the world were watching history unfold as astronaut Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind, forever changing space exploration.

Navy Veteran Tom Trudell from San Jose was among thousands who came to the historic USS Hornet in Alameda Saturday. It's the same Navy ship which picked up three astronauts after the splashdown in 1969.

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"I was in the right place at the right time," said retired U.S. Navy pilot Bruce Johnson.

Johnson co-piloted the helicopter that plucked the astronauts from the ocean 50 years ago. He says it all happened fast.

"They splashed down at 5:20 pm and they were back on board by 6pm it all went according to plan," said Johnson.

NASA Flight surgeon Dr. Bill Carpentier was the first to see and communicate with Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, he needed to know if they were ok but only hand signals would work. The noise of the chopper was too loud.

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"As they came into the helicopter, I got a thumbs up from one, two, three - my life was complete, they were ok and what a relief," said Carpentier.

The Apollo 11 recovery crew were featured speakers on the USS Hornet.

More than 2,000 people bought tickets and came on board for 50th anniversary festivities.

See more stories and videos about the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing.
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