Remembering The Summer Of ’69: Apollo 11 Moon Landing, Woodstock, The Manson Murders & Chappaquiddick

Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. stands beside the United States Flag during Man's First Landing On The Moon
NASA / Getty Images

The summer of 1969 — often referred to as the Summer of Love — was one to remember, then, now and in the future. Within the span of just a single month, the events that occurred 50 years ago are fervently talked about and studied today as part of American history.

On July 16, Apollo 11 began flying through space, heading for a destination not ever reached before by man, as remembered by NASA.

Two days later, astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon, proclaimed the now-immortal words.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The same day as the astronauts took off, preparing to land on the moon in 1969, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was on a Massachusetts beach, taking part in a party off the coast of Cape Cod. The exact place was Chappaquiddick, which also became the way to describe what happened when a very drunk and very married Kennedy suddenly left the festivities with a younger woman in tow, per CBS News.

Sadly, Kennedy made a wrong turn on his way to a familiar ferry, causing his car to careen off a bridge and down into a deep pond. While the senator was able to escape and swim to safety, his 28-year-old passenger died in those waters. This drunk driving accident made the news early the next day, causing Kennedy’s political career to be forever tarnished as the public mourned presumed innocent Mary Jo Kopechne’s demise.

A couple of weeks later on August 8, this time in Los Angeles, the home of acclaimed director Roman Polanski and his girlfriend, actress Sharon Tate, was invaded, leaving multiple people on the premises dead.

This historical killing spree, which was touched upon in the Quentin Tarantino movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, “included Jay Sebring (a celebrity hairstylist), Abigail Folger (the coffee heiress), and Voytek Frykowski (Abigail’s boyfriend),” recalls Good Housekeeping.

Manson’s cult followers “snuck into the Los Angeles mansion and brutally murdered all four of the friends, plus Steven Parent, who was a friend of the home’s caretaker.”

Although Roman wasn’t home, Sharon — who was eight months pregnant — was slaughtered in what became known as the Manson murders.

On a more upbeat note, about half a million music fans, mostly hippies and the like, invaded a large farm in upstate New York for a three-day marathon concert that started 50 years ago today on August 15.

Woodstock, as the festival was called, quickly became a pop culture phenomenon known as “three days that defined a generation.” Even those who had not been born yet wished they could have been part of this gathering in which many sensational acts performed in a laid-back environment. Many of these musicians were just on their way up in the world of rock and folk, while others had already reached major stardom.

On the roster on Friday, August 15, 1969, Richie Havens, Swami Satchidananda, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, Ravi Shankar, Tim Hardin, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez performed.

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On Saturday, August 16, the gathering took off with a bang. Quill, Country Joe McDonald, John Sebastian, Santana, The Keef Hartley Band, The Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, Mountain, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin with The Kozmic Blues Band, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who and Jefferson Airplane played to the massive crowd.

Then, on Sunday, August 17, The Grease Band, Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish, Ten Years After, The Band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Johnny Winter featuring Edgar Winter, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Sha-Na-Na and Jimi Hendrix put their talents on show.

However, Woodstock was and will always be more than a music festival. It was a love-in, a time for peace and a time for feeling free. This was especially necessary for many during the iconic summer of 1969 when Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the Moon, Senator Kennedy was shamed and ashamed during the sad situation known as Chappaquiddick and Charles Manson’s cult members went on a Los Angeles murder spree.