BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - It is one of the lesser known and less glamorous parts of the Apollo missions.
The race to put a man on the Moon pushed human innovation to the limit and many Brevard County marriages past the breaking point.
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In the mid- to late '60s, as the Apollo program was nearing its conclusion, the number of divorces spiked in Brevard County, hitting more than 1,600 a year.
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“Brevard County did not have a high success rate in marriages when you look at the divorces and the human cost, because we were working 18 hours a day, six days a week, sometimes seven," said retired NASA launch team member Roy Tharpe.
Now, a half-century after the Apollo 11 launch, those who worked on the missions talk about missed birthdays, anniversaries and special events.
“It put huge challenges on marriages, a lot of marriages did not make it," said Bill Heink, recounting the times he came home long after his family had gone to sleep. "Many, many nights I got home and It would be nine o'clock, and my wife was a good faithful wife, and she'd save me a plate for dinner, and this was in the days before the microwave so you had two choices eat it cold or wait until the oven heats up, well when you have to get back to work in four hours it's just not practice, so I sat down to eat my cold dinner, and on two separate occasions, she put out pictures of our kids with a note saying, here is what your kids look like, if you every got home in time to see them."
Family taking a back seat was an unspoken aspect of the mission to put man on the moon. A mission that was ultimately a success, even if it left a series of failed marriages in its wake.
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