When the world watched as Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon, Joyce Stewart had a front-row seat. "I was in the control room at Johnson Space Center," the Westerville woman remembers.
Fifty years ago, at the age of 15, she often worked for her dad who was the director of the Gilruth Center and managed the fitness centers and restaurants at NASA in Houston. The day Apollo 11 landed, she was working with her mom at the snack shop, near mission control, when one of the engineers stopped by for a cup of coffee. "It was a quarter, and he could not figure out how to put his money in the machine. So my mom and I assisted him and that's when he said, 'Hey, would you like to see, they are getting ready to walk on the moon.'" Stewart said.
Of course, the two jumped at the chance. They had never been inside mission control. "There was so much tight security, " she said. " But with him there with us, we got clearance to go inside. I'm not really sure if he was allowed to do that, but he didn't even know how to use the coffee machine, so I'm not sure."
Stewart said she was nervous inside mission control, and there were a lot of lights and big computers. But her eyes were glued to the big screen.
"I knew something historic was happening. I don't know if I understood the magnitude at 15 and concerned with boys or my next dance, But I knew something historic was going on. And when they walked out, there was cheering and everyone was like... wow, look at this, " said Stewart.
Stewart still has her security badge of the Apollo 11 mission and some pictures of the day, which she cherishes. And still marvels how a cup of coffee helped her witness history. "I still find it hard to believe that I was in there, but I was there at the right time, the right moment."
As for her dad, who worked at NASA, he was at home with her brothers and sisters at the time.