On 50th anniversary, Abilene man recalls helping prepare for Apollo 11 mission

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ABILENE, Texas (KRBC) – As the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon launch is here, one Abilene man is recalling when he helped them prepare for the mission.

“If I had to jump out and rescue a capsule, I knew what to do. There wasn’t any hesitation,” said Albert Robillard.

Robillard joined The United States Air Force in February of 1963. One year later he became one of the 15 men who The Department of Defense organizers called pararescue, whose primary mission was to help the astronauts and the space program.

“We went through medical school, jump school, forest ranger school, scuba school with the navy and then we can put them all together,” said Robillard.

Their training took nine months. Then they moved on to extensive training at Kindley Air Force Base in Bermuda.

“We were jumping in oceans, we would be swimming 10 miles a couple of days a week. We would be running just to keep in shape and be physically ready for anything that could happen,” said Robillard.

First, they dropped a spotter shot over the capsule to find out when they need to jump, then taking that count and taking the leap.

“Sometimes you get the count and you drop the first person out and you don’t come close to that but it happens because the wind shifts and you are way off course,” said Robillard.

That training made them ready to help with Apollo 7, 8 and 9, having to be on standby if anything went wrong for the landings.

“The whole object of the game was get the pilots out of the capsule as fast as you can because they can get seasick and nauseated and that was why you have to know what you are doing and you have to do it quickly and efficiently,” said Robillard.

All these missions helped Apollo 11 happen.

“We were no longer a stand by because NASA has put the space ship just about where it wanted it to go,” said Robillard.

He said he was sitting at home watching Apollo 11 on tv knowing he helped them prepare.

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