How a 10-Year-Old Boy Helped Apollo 11 Return to Earth After a Communication Snafu

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As today is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, it seems only right to recognize those who made this great accomplishment possible. Without the mathematicians, scientists and astronauts, none of this monumental feat would have been possible. But there is one unsung hero that America knows little about — a 10-year-old boy.

Greg Force was 10 years old in 1969 when his father, Charles Force, worked for NASA as the Director of Communication. The two lived in Guam when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

After Apollo 11 took off from the moon to come back home, they noticed an issue at the Guam site — a bearing in an antenna that allowed NASA to speak with the astronauts as they reentered the Earth’s atmosphere had broken, NPR reported.

Because no grown man would be able to reach the broken bolt to replace it, Charles called home to see if his young son Greg might be able to do it since he had much smaller dimensions. Charles drove over to pick up his son and explained that he would be putting a pile of grease on his hand and arm so he could replace the bearing for them.

“I would take a big handful of grease — you know, you squish it,” Greg recalled. “It comes out between your fingers, and I stuck them down in there and packed them the best I could.”

Charles calling home and asking his 10-year-old son to help may very well have saved the communication aspect of the mission as he was successful in replacing the bearing. In fact, Greg was recognized in a press release by NASA’s public affairs officer.

“The bearing was replaced with the assistance of a 10-year-old boy named Greg Force who had arms small enough that he could work through a 2½ inch diameter hole to pack [the bearing].”

Greg, who had ambitions of following in his father’s footsteps working for NASA, had to choose a different career path as he discovered he was colorblind. The now 60-year-old Greg owns a gymnastics studio, but he still fondly remembers the moment his father called.

“Now that I look back on it, I’m very proud,” Greg said. “Not especially anything amazing that I did, but that I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I’m also proud that my dad trusted me enough … to do it.”