1969: Man on moon, but pictures had to be hand-delivered

During the summer of 1969, Guy Mendes was a 20-year-old University of Kentucky student who had landed an internship at Newsweek.

It put him in the perfect spot to snag a little piece of American history — one of the first printed photographs of American astronauts walking on the moon.

Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, and it got Mendes, a Lexington photographer and writer who worked as a director and producer for Kentucky Educational Television, thinking about the little black-and-white photo and how it came to be tacked on the wall above the desk in his Lexington studio.

Mendes was based in Houston for the summer of '69 and had already covered Muhammad Ali's draft-evasion trial and interviewed the president of Gulf Oil for Newsweek.

His moon-landing assignment was a little different, though.

"My role was to be ready to go to this window in the Houston space center where they handed out . . . the first pictures of the moon" to the major media outlets, he said.

Then, in those pre-Internet days, he was to hop a flight to New York and deliver the photos to Newsweek's headquarters on Madison Avenue in time for them to make it into the magazine's next issue.

For several days, Mendes said, he waited at the space station in a press area with "hundreds of journalists from all across the world."

"In a way, it was just another job, waiting for the film," he said. "Crucial, but anyone could have done it."

When the envelope was finally placed in his hands, Mendes said he sat down and looked inside.

"There were maybe eight or nine pictures," he said. "One was a duplicate."

So he slipped it out as a souvenir.

"I didn't think too much about it," he said. "I probably should've given it back, but you know, it was an extra."


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