'Go You Beauty': Derryn Hinch Relives The Apollo 11 Launch He Witnessed

Fifty years ago, the world huddled around TV sets and radios to witness the beginning of an unprecedented journey to the Moon.  

Just after 9:30am on July 16, 1969 (local time), astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were shot into the sky by the Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket.

In Australia, it was nearly midnight on a Wednesday.

Derryn Hinch. Image: AAP

Representing MBS News and The Sydney Sun, a 25-year-old Derryn Hinch sat among the rows of reporters and journalists packed into Cape Kennedy -- there to find the words.

It was Hinch's first live radio broadcast and for all his professionalism, he almost found one word too many.

"Do you know the spot where I almost dropped the F-bomb fifty years ago?" he asked 10 daily, laughing.

"I said 'there she goes and there she goes, people are saying go you beauty, go you beauty go, go, go, it's a, it's a-', and I paused and I said 'it's an absolute beauty', but I almost said 'it's f*cking amazing'."

NASA's Apollo 11 mission launches from Cape Canaveral (then known as Cape Kennedy). Image: Getty

As it turned out, NASA successfully launched three men to space that day in Florida -- and Hinch's career was launched along with them.

"I said back then during that recording that, as long as I live, I'll never see anything quite like this and that's the truth. It's still the biggest story I've ever covered," he said.

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Hinch gave a detailed and unabashedly Australian live cross to audiences back home. Sitting just metres from the astronauts as they made their way onto the launch pad, he noted how they appeared calm and collected despite the task ahead.

Neil Armstrong, buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins prepare to ride the special transport vehicle van to Launch Complex 39A. Image: NASA/Getty

It was the members of the audience crying, Hinch said, which gave away the enormity of the event.

"I have to admit that when the door to the van closed behind those men, and they drove off for the last time before they come back, a shiver went down my spine too," he said in the broadcast.

As the astronauts prepared to embark, there were mixed emotions among viewers.

Less than three years prior, a test flight for what was the be the first manned Apollo mission -- Apollo 1 -- ended in disaster.

Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives after fire engulfed their command module, and the tragedy was a reminder of just how dangerous and difficult space travel was.

Spectators hang out around campsites in Cape Kennedy, Florida, in July 1969 awaiting the Apollo 11 launch. Image: Getty

"The fact that happened in January 1967 and then two-and-a-half years later, they were walking on the Moon, that was the extraordinary thing," Hinch said.

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While millions across the world watched and listened on their devices, thousands more filled the Cape Kennedy area to catch a glimpse of lift-off in the flesh.

NASA itself had sent more than 7000 official invites to the event, while keen onlookers camped out overnight in a bid to nab the best vantage points along the Atlantic shoreline.

View of spectators as they watch (and film) the launch of NASA's Apollo 11 space mission from a concrete ledge, Cape Kennedy. Image: Getty

Hinch was one of 3000 accredited journalists, and despite sitting more than four kilometres away, was among some of the closest spectators.

"What hit me, literally, was the sheer power of that rocket," Hinch recalled.

"We were on a makeshift stand about three miles from the rocket, but you could see it clear as day.  When it started to take off, the power of the energy came to us in waves. It hit me in the gut like a baseball bat."

The Apollo 11 mission lasted eight days, and audiences never looked away.

When Armstrong finally made history as the first person to ever step foot on the Moon on July 20, more than 600 million people tuned in to watch.

Neil Armstrong steps into history July 20, 1969 by leaving the first human footprint on the surface of the moon. Image: Getty

"I was talking to Buzz Aldrin only last week," Hinch said.

"And he said 'we really brought the world together didn't we?' And when you look back, they did. You see black people, while people, Asians, Muslims, Christians, all staring at TV screens or huddled around radios."

"Because this was a moment for mankind."