Dr. David Chudwin’s love for space exploration began when he was a child in the 1950s. His favorite television program as a child was “Walt Disney’s Disneyland,” featuring segments on space travel, then just a dream. The first book he owned was 1957’s “Space Pilots” by Willy Ley about the future selection of astronauts.
For Chudwin, space exploration started to become a reality when the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in October 1957 when he was 7 years old.
“The first seven U.S. astronauts were named in April of 1959 and gave human faces to the notion of people travelling in space,” Chudwin said. “I was captivated by the first human spaceflights. Russian Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth once on April 12, 1961, when I was 10 years old.
“Alan Shepard rode a Mercury-Redstone rocket for the U.S. on a suborbital flight the next month. John Glenn piloted the first U.S. orbital mission aboard a Mercury-Atlas rocket in February of 1962.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. People around the world remember where they were when the Lunar Module Eagle landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board.
To commemorate the anniversary, Chudwin, 68, of Lincolnshire, wrote a book, “I Was A Teenage Space Reporter: From Apollo 11 to Our Future in Space,” released Tuesday.
Chudwin, who was 19 at the time, covered the launch in July 1969 from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Fla., with his notepad and camera as a member of the press. Chudwin was the only journalist with official NASA press credentials representing the college press and had access to the astronauts, rocket scientists, launchpads, rockets and control centers.
Today, Chudwin, sees patients at Allergy and Asthma Associates in Bourbonnais, part of the AMITA Health network, but his lifelong interest in space exploration continues.
“The book is a look back to celebrate that mission and forward to our future in space,” Chudwin said. “It’s very gratifying to see the book in print. I hope it inspires others, especially youth, in space.”
He started writing about space as editor of his high school newspaper. He sent questions to the NASA public affairs office in Houston and received tape-recorded answers from astronaut Bill Anders. His love for writing and journalism continued in college at the University of Michigan, where he joined the student-run newspaper, The Michigan Daily.
In 1968, just days before celebrating Christmas at home in Illinois, his friend, Marvin Rubenstein, suggested they travel to Florida the next summer to view a Saturn V rocket launch. He approached his newspaper editors about covering the Apollo launch.
“The newspaper had a long tradition of sending reporters to national news events, usually political in nature,” Chudwin said. “However, sending a sophomore to a rocket launch was not high on their priority list. They agreed I could represent The Daily, but I would need to cover all of my own expenses.”
Chudwin applied for NASA press credentials and soon learned NASA had more than 3,500 requests for accreditation for Apollo 11 and virtually no open spots. More importantly, NASA considered college journalists as students and would not accredit them.
“Never giving up hope, I prevailed on a Daily senior editor, Jim Heck, who was going to be in Washington that summer, to go to bat with the NASA public affairs office for me and my friend, Marv,” Chudwin said. “Jim was the summer editor of the College Press Service Wire Network, a consortium of 500 college newspapers that shared news stories in the days before the internet. He argued that I was not just representing The Michigan Daily, but all of the newspapers served by the College Press Service. After his efforts, I received a letter dated June 17, 1969, that NASA had agreed to accredit me for Apollo 11.”
Chudwin and his friend flew to Florida and, in a coincidence, met NASA astronauts Alan Bean, Charlie Duke and Jim Irwin, who later would walk on the moon. On the day of the launch, they also saw astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin walk out in their white spacesuits on their way to the launch pad. At 8:32 a.m. July 16, 1969, Chudwin and Rubenstein watched them lift off on top of a Saturn V rocket on their way to the moon.
“It’s been 50 years since that momentous mission, but my memories and pictures have been sharp enough to form the basis for my book,” Chudwin said. “As a teenage reporter with a NASA press pass, I was lucky enough to be an eyewitness to history with a unique perspective. Apollo 11 was a great achievement for the U.S. and probably the greatest engineering achievement of all time.”
Divided into three parts, the book provides Chudwin’s account of covering the first landing on the moon in 1969, lessons learned from the Apollo program and their relevance to future space activities and the future of space, including new rockets, space stations and trips back to the moon and to Mars.
Chudwin also has written about Apollo 11 in magazines, hobby publications, online and on Facebook. He has spoken about Apollo 11 at schools and at space meetings, including Spacefest in 2016. He is an active blogger participating in blogs about space history, space memorabilia, unmanned planetary exploration and the Apollo program. Chudwin is also one of the original members of the Space Hipsters Facebook group, comprised of 16,000 influential space enthusiasts around the world.
Chudwin received his medical degree from University of Michigan and had further medical training at University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of California, San Francisco.
“I Was A Teenage Space Reporter: From Apollo 11 to Our Future in Space,” published by LID Publishing, is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target and Books-A-Million.