Apollo 11: The recovery mission
July 21st, 2012
02:11 PM ET

'Muscle guys' who brought Apollo 11 home

By Thom Patterson, CNN

(CNN) - As he stood on the floating Apollo 11 capsule, Navy SEAL John Wolfram was very aware that the safety of the first men to walk on the moon was in his hands. The whole world was watching.

Amazing circumstances - for a guy just two years out of high school.

It was July 24, 1969 - four days after the historic landing - and millions were anxious to know whether the astronauts had survived their fiery fall into the Pacific about a thousand miles off Hawaii. Minutes before he stepped onto the tiny capsule, it had been plummeting from space into the atmosphere at thousands of miles per hour. Parts of the spacecraft's shell were blackened. Wolfram could see steam still rising from it.

"I looked in the hatch window to see if the astronauts were OK," recalls Wolfram. "They smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Being the first to look them in the eye and see that they're OK - it's quite a rush."

On this 43rd anniversary of the well-known mission, here's an Apollo 11 story that's told less often.

It's the story of a handpicked four-man team of tough Navy SEALs who played a key role in what may be mankind's greatest technological achievement.

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space • On this Day

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