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Somewhere in the moon's Sea of Tranquility lies a box that is, to a degree, the legacy of retired astronaut Don Lind.

Speckled by moon dust 40 years after astronaut Buzz Aldrin set it in place, the breadbox-sized seismometer powered by the sun is probably still sending signals to Earth, recordings of every bump, every movement on the moon.

That's the picture Lind, 79, of Smithfield, holds in his mind alongside the memories of the role he played in Apollo 11, the mission that first put men on the moon July 20, 1969.

A Midvale native and a physicist, Lind was in the corps of astronauts waiting his turn to fly to the moon when he was put in charge of lunar surface operations for Apollo 11.

Not only did he help design the two main experiments for that first moon landing -- the seismometer and a foil banner that became embedded with solar particles -- Lind sat behind the flight controller at NASA's Mission Control.

In the post-Sputnik rush to the moon, NASA determined that the Apollo 11 crew only had time to train for the expected. If the unforeseen were to happen while Neil Armstrong and Aldrin were collecting rocks and setting up experiments, it was Lind's job to guide them through it.

"I had worked out all the procedures and tested everything," recalls Lind. "I was literally the expert."

Luckily, there were no surprises. Back at Mission Control, Lind was elated.

He remembers a sense of fulfillment, a feeling of "tremendous satisfaction."

"After all these years of preparation ... everything was going just the way we had designed it to happen."


Imagining space » Lind's appetite for space travel began when he was a youngster, inspired by explorers in the comics: Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Brick Bradford.

In the 1930s, Lind, his two younger sisters and a cousin would climb a tree in a meadow near the family home in Midvale. They would shake the branches to simulate their craft hurtling through space.

"That was the wonderful world of imagination. The real world was milking cows and pulling dandelions," Lind remembers, laughing.

His parents whetted his interest in science. His dad was an electrician and his mother, a former school teacher.

He remembers asking once why the moon changed shape in the sky. Into the bedroom the family marched, one holding a beach ball to represent Earth, one carrying a tennis ball for the moon, and one with the light to represent the sun.

"Dad was wonderful about explaining things and as far as I knew, he knew everything."

Lind studied physics for two years at the University of Utah and then served a mission for the LDS Church in the Northeastern states.

He finished his degree in physics in one year when he returned, and enlisted in the Navy, where he hoped to be among the fastest, most daring aircraft carrier pilots -- a goal he later attained.

While he waited to ship out, Lind enrolled for a quarter at Brigham Young University with the plan to take every class taught by Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley. "He was my hero. He was an intellectual giant with a testimony."

At BYU, he bumped into Kathleen Maughan, a Logan native whose father had been Lind's mission president. The next April Fool's Day, they were married in the Salt Lake City Temple while he was on leave.

As a Navy aviator during the Korean War, Lind contacted scientists at the University of California at Berkeley and volunteered to take up photo emulsions to record cosmic rays. "I could get up to 50,000 feet!"

That opened the door at Berkeley, where he later earned his doctorate degree in high-energy nuclear physics.


Science and adventure: Lind took a job at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where he was doing research, when the nation began recruiting astronauts.

After several failed attempts, he was selected with 18 others in the fifth group of astronauts, according to an oral history recorded in 2005 by NASA. It helped that he was a pilot and a scientist.

Becoming an astronaut allowed Lind to combine two loves: adventure and science.

"This was exploring the unknown. This was expanding human understanding of the world, the cosmos in which we live," he told the 2005 interviewer.

Lind never did get to fly to the moon.

The nation lost its fascination with lunar exploration after 12 astronauts had walked there and Lind's mission was one of three cancelled Apollo missions.

In 1985, though, 19 years after he joined the space program -- the longest wait for any astronaut -- Lind flew on Spacelab 3, aboard Challenger. The 55-year-old was in space seven days, flying nearly three million miles.

"It wasn't the moon ... but I was in space, which was my goal."

Lind later painted a picture of that Challenger lift-off. Hanging on the living room wall of his Smithfield home, his oil painting shows two white hands cupping the craft as it rises above the earth.

Lind gave it the name "3/10 of a Second," signifying how close Lind believes he came to dying.

When Challenger exploded on liftoff during its next mission a year later, the investigation revealed O-ring problems that had existed even on the previous mission. Thiokol scientists in Utah, where the O-rings were made, told Lind that if a ring had not slipped into place (with less than a second to spare) to block the escape of gases, he would have died.

"We think the Lord helped us," Lind says.


A beautiful sight » Lind had already put in his paperwork to retire when Challenger exploded. He and Kathleen returned to Utah, where he joined USU, teaching physics, astrophysics and astronomy for the next nine years.

Parents of seven children -- five of them in Utah -- the couple served three missions for their church after he retired from USU. And this summer, he's recalling the stress-filled, exciting weeks leading up to Apollo 11, when he was badgering Bendix Corp. scientists in Ann Arbor, Mich., to build a seismometer that could work in 10 minutes, the threshold set by NASA for the lunar experiments.

"As soon as it unfolded and the sunlight hit the solar panels, it started registering and transmitting signals," Lind says. "It recorded his [Aldrin's] walking away, climbing the ladder of the lunar module and the click of the door as it shut. It worked beautifully!"

In the night, the seismometer that Utah's native son helped design recorded Armstrong as he rolled over in his hammock.

By monitoring the transmissions for a year or two, NASA was able to determine that the moon's interior is solid, not molten. Funding and interest waned, but Lind figures the seismometer still works in the Sea of Tranquility.

"It is probably still transmitting. I don't think anybody is listening anymore."

Utah's moon walk commemorations

Two Utah planetariums plan presentations Monday, the 40th anniversary of the day U.S. astronauts first walked on the moon.

The Clark Planetarium, 110 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, will have showings at noon, 2:45 p.m. and 6 p.m. of the film "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D" in its ATK IMAX Theater. The film tells the story of 12 astronauts who walked on the moon from 1969 to 1972.

Then at 7 p.m., planetarium programs manager Mike Murray will host a presentation in the Hansen Dome Theatre on the Apollo expeditions to the moon and the future of lunar exploration.

Tickets to each of these events cost $1.

The Ott Planetarium at Weber State University in Ogden plans showings at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. of "The Great Space Race," a WSU-designed show that tells the story of the U.S. and Russian space competition. The three shows are all free.