Launch com­men­ta­tor for Apollo 11 moon shot, Jack King, dies aged 84

The China Post - - LIFE - BY MAR­CIA DUNN

Jack King, a NASA public af­fairs of­fi­cial who be­came the voice of the Apollo moon shots, died Thurs­day. He was 84.

King counted down the his­toric launch of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969. He also did the count­down for hun­dreds of the early rocket launches, in­clud­ing the two-man Gemini mis­sions and many other Apollo mis­sions

King died at a hospice fa­cil­ity, not far from Kennedy Space Cen­ter, said Hugh Har­ris, re­tired direc­tor of public af­fairs at Kennedy. King had been di­ag­nosed early this year with heart fail­ure.

In 2009, on the 40th an­niver­sary of the Apollo 11 moon land­ing by Neil Arm­strong and Buzz Aldrin, King said that he still en­joyed hear­ing record­ings of him­self from that big launch day.

“I wish I had a penny for ev­ery time it was used,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

For just over a year, from 1958 to 1959, King ran the new AP of­fice in Cape Canaveral. He first joined the news agency in 1951 in Bos­ton, his home­town, and re­turned af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Bos­ton Col­lege and serv­ing two years in the Army.

King moved over to NASA and went on to head its public in­for­ma­tion of­fice at Cape Canaveral dur­ing the Mer­cury pro­gram, the job he still held when as­tro­nauts first flew to the moon.

“Twelve, 11, 10, 9, ig­ni­tion se­quence start. Six, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero, all en­gine run­ning. Liftoff! We have a liftoff, 32 min­utes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11.”

King later said he was so ex­cited, he said “en­gine” in­stead of “en­gines.” He had no script and stuck to the bare facts, he said in 2009.

King left for NASA’s John­son Space Cen­ter in Hous­ton fol­low­ing Apollo 11 and was a mem­ber of the three-man team that ne­go­ti­ated an in­for­ma­tion plan for the joint U.S.-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975. It re­sulted in the first live TV cov­er­age of a Soviet rocket launch, Har­ris said.

He went to Wash­ing­ton in 1975 to di­rect public re­la­tions for the U.S. En­ergy Re­search and Devel­op­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion. He left gov­ern­ment in 1977 to work for Ar­mand Ham­mer and Oc­ci­den­tal In­ter­na­tional Corp. and oth­ers, be­fore try­ing out re­tire­ment in 1996. He moved to Co­coa Beach, Florida, near the space cen­ter, and be­came a spokesman for United Space Al­liance, a Lock­heed Martin and Boe­ing ven­ture to pre­pare the space shut­tles for flight. He re­tired in 2010.

On May 30, Har­ris said he took King and King’s daugh­ter to the space cen­ter for the an­nual in­duc­tion cer­e­mony for the United States As­tro­naut Hall of Fame. But upon ar­riv­ing, King col­lapsed and was taken to the hos­pi­tal.

“He lived and breathed the space pro­gram, he loved it from the be­gin­ning,” said his daugh­ter, Beth King Post of Co­coa Beach.

King is also sur­vived by a son, Harold “Chip” King of Bluffton, South Carolina, and five grand­chil­dren.


This Nov. 14, 1969 photo made avail­able by NASA shows Jack King in the Fir­ing Room of the Kennedy Space Cen­ter’s Launch Con­trol Cen­ter in Cape Canaveral, Florida, dur­ing the count­down for Apollo 12, the sec­ond lu­nar land­ing mission.

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