What was Houston’s weather like on July 20, 1969?

I thought it might be interesting to look back at Houston’s weather during the Moon landing, in 1969. This was a Sunday, so a lot of people would have been off from work, with not a whole lot going on during the afternoon or evening hours. The Eagle’s touchdown—”Houston, the Eagle has landed”—came at 3:17pm local time. After checkouts, preparations, and getting suited up, Neil Armstrong stepped on to the lunar surface at 9:56pm. Buzz Aldrin soon followed.

Weather conditions in Houston that day were rather blah compared to what was happening in space. For the most part, for much of the region, it was a gray day, with fog in the morning, and some scattered, light drizzle. Highs for most of Houston only reached into the upper 80s, with clouds keeping more typical summertime heat at bay. The humidity, of course, was typically Houston high. If you have memories of that day’s weather, please share them in the comments below.

The weather would have been rather unremarkable, and not particularly memorable, because most people experienced the Moon landings in their homes, in front of a television set or listening to the radio. If one had stepped outside to check the sky after Neil and Buzz walked on lunar surface, the Moon would have been visible near the western horizon, if skies were clear enough. Which for most of Houston, they weren’t.

In this photograph, Buzz Aldrin takes his first step onto the surface of the Moon.

Among the many things I find so intriguing about the Apollo Program is that it produced one of the rare moments in history when everyone can recall where he or she was when it happened—and it wasn’t a tragedy. Think about most of the other “Where were you when?” moments. JFK’s assassination. The Twin Towers falling during the Sept. 11 attacks. The space shuttle Challenger and Columbia accidents. For most of the country these were tragic moments. The Moon landing, rather, united this country and the world to celebrate what humans can achieve when we set aside our differences and work together.

By the way, if you’re heading out to the big Apollo 50th event at Space Center Houston today or this evening, it will be partly sunny and hot, with high temperatures in the mid-90s. We may see a very few scattered showers pop up this afternoon, but those should be long gone by the time the concerts begin at the lunar celebration.

Speaking of that event, Reliant is also a sponsor of that celebration. Here’s a quick message from them:

What a great time to be from Houston as we celebrate the innovation, teamwork and drive that made the first steps on the moon possible. We are proud to be the Official Countdown sponsor at the “Apollo 11 50th Live” festival where we will mark the exact moment Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. The event will feature fun family activities, food and live music from the band Walk the Moon. If you attend, stop by the Reliant booth for some fun giveaways, including LED bracelets for the first 15,000 through the gate that synchronize to different exhibits, the concert and the countdown.

20 thoughts on “What was Houston’s weather like on July 20, 1969?

  1. lee

    Headed over to Space Center Houston in about 45 minutes to start my volunteer shift doing Saturn V tours! Got my water, my granola bars, and my comfy shoes. If any SCW readers end up over at Rocket Park today and you see a super-pasty white dude wearing a red “VOLUNTEER” shirt and a name tag that says “Lee” on it, please feel free to say hi 🙂

    1. William c Smith jr

      I dont know what the weather was in Houston
      I was in Vietnam 19 years old. Trying to stay alive.
      It was hot and humid with monsoons coming and going.
      God bless America

  2. Gene Surrency

    My wife and I just graduated room high school that year. July 20th 1969 That day was her birthday as well as our first date. We went to the circus and left early to get back to her house and watch the landing. Pretty cool first date.My dad was in the boat business in the 60’s with the original 7 astronaughts, they built race boats for the likes of John Mecom Jr. And Red Adair. My job was to take care of Gordon Cooper’s personal race boat. cCurrently we live across from NASA.

  3. Tom

    Cool memories. I was in Western MT just before 9th grade. Waa at SCH last evening for dinner and Gene Kranz presentation. UNREAL!! He narrated the happenings of that day with slides, video and audio. Really cool evening

      1. Jim M

        Having known him for the last 15 years I can state he is also a remarkable yet humble and prayerful man.

  4. Cass Hall

    I was 7 years old and on a weekend trip near Dallas with my grandparents. The whole motel was like a block party. Kids were swimming in the pool while grownups kept watch. After Armstrong and Aldren walked on the moon, several of us kids went back out to the pool. The sky was clear in North Texas. I convinced a boy who was younger than me that I could see them on the moon, which of course, I could NOT!

  5. Susan K Williams

    As a young mom of a 4 month old baby girl, and having just lost my dad mere days after my baby’s birth, it was a breath of fresh air to watch this momentous event occur before my very eyes. And, being a total sci-fi enthusiast, I just knew that we would have “colonies” being built on the moon within a few years.

    Winning the space race to the moon was such an incredible achievement and I felt that all those books I read on space travel were going to actually come true, and within my lifetime.

    I’m still a huge space enthusiast, and I still read sci-fi novels, I just wanted to travel to outer space one day like Armstrong and Aldin. sigh

  6. Shirley

    I was a 13 year old on July 20, 1969 and was sitting around our table in our family’s small kitchen with my four siblings and parents. It was a hot, humid evening in my home town in northern Ohio (our house had no air conditioning). We were awed by the sight we were seeing on our small 12-inch B&W TV. Truly, a great feat for our country and the world.

    Thank you, Eric, for a great post.

  7. Odell

    What a wonderful post! It was my 27th birthday. With a five-month-old baby and a three year old, I was tired! Being a fairly recent transplant from LA, the event was thrilling to watch on TV from my new hometown of Houston. I do have one recollection that I’m not sure is true. I think the walk was actually supposed to happen on the 21st, but since everyone was ready, it was decided to step out on the 20th. Could that possibly be a fact? I’d love to know.

    1. Blackhawks Fan

      I think you might be right. Sounds rather cruel to make the Astronauts wait a day. Like they are going to be able to sleep.

      1. Blackhawks Fan

        We’re sorta right. It was actually in the wee hours of the 21st (sort of) – according to the infallable source of all knowledge known as Wikipedia:

        ” …at 02:56:15, six and a half hours after landing, Armstrong stepped off Eagle’s footpad and declared: ‘That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind’ ”

        That is in UTC. So for Houston it would have been 21:56:15 on the 20th – assuming Houston observed daylight savings time back then which I think would have been the case. We were living in Ohio at the time.

  8. Vince Havard

    I was a 5 year old kid from Mobile, Alabama who was watching a black and white T.V. All of us kids were sitting right in front of the T.V. Stand and the adults were sitting on the sofa. I remember the adults saying that history was being made! Such awesome memories!

  9. Bill Martin

    Was 9 years old and on summer vacation with folks in Galveston. Struggled to stay up, but did, taking multiple pics of historic event off the tv with my Kodak instamatic. Sadly though, what I got when pictures were developed was a bunch of pictures of dark screen with a big bright spot on them. Nothing lunar here, just the reflection of the flash cube going off. Just Google any of these words if they are unfamiliar!!. .

  10. Blackhawks Fan

    You know, this 50th anniversary celebration is having a profound effect on me. It’s making me feel OLD!!!

    I remember watching it in the family room of my parents’ home. I was getting ready to go into the SIXTH grade.

    Ouch!

  11. Kate

    Eric, I loved this post for several reasons:

    I’m a proud native Houstonian and have been enjoying all the moon landing celebratory activity. I’m also a huge fan of SWC so positive + positive = really positive.
    Enjoyed realizing how right you are about it being a moment of celebration that was so significant people remember where they were. We need more of those in history!
    My parents hadn’t yet met so obviously I didn’t get to see it but the weather report from that day makes me feel a little more connected to it.

    Thank you!

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