The first time Derryn Hinch met Buzz Aldrin was in a hotel bar a year after the astronaut was catapulted to the moon and international fame.
Hinch, then a young US correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald, had checked into a Holiday Inn in Houston, Texas, preparing for an event marking the world-changing events of 12 months earlier.
Aldrin was propped up at the bar alongside first wife, Joan, who was gently suggesting he'd "had enough" and it was time to leave.
As Hinch ordered a nightcap in his Antipodean accent, Aldrin's ears pricked up.
"You're an Aussie?" Aldrin asked.
Hinch confirmed his suspicions, explaining he was a journalist who was, in fact, on the spot at Cape Kennedy when Apollo 11 rocketed into outer space.
"I've just been to Australia... come and have a drink", Aldrin said.
As Mrs Aldrin abandoned attempts to coax her husband to bed, the second man to set foot on the moon leaned over and told the young reporter: "We really did bring the world together".
Hinch was just 25 in July 1969 when he was dispatched from the New York bureau to cover what he later described as "the greatest thing anyone is ever going to see".
Working for the now defunct Sydney Sun and the Herald, he'd covered the social upheaval going on across America and the traumatic events of the previous 12 months, including the assassination and funerals of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
A short holiday to Paris to clear his head had landed him in the middle of the notorious student riots where he and his first wife, journalist Lana Wells, hid under a restaurant table as rocks and bricks were pelted through the window. They fled to Venice the next day.
All this was still weighing on his mind as he set off to Florida with The Age correspondent Roy McCartney, along with almost 3000 journalists from around the world.
Those days had taken an emotional toll on not only Hinch but the world. The dreams and promise of John F. Kennedy less than a decade earlier had been replaced by a deep cynicism symbolised by the ongoing horrors in Vietnam.
Hinch was part of a small pool of journalists who stood just metres away from Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Aldrin as the astronauts were paraded ahead of the launch.
But the disaster of the Apollo 1 two years earlier - when three men headed to the same destination were incinerated on the same launch pad - still loomed large.
"I remember the three Apollo 11 astronauts walked out in their white spacesuits and bubble helmets, carrying life-support briefcases," Hinch says.
"Their family and friends and NASA heavies were there too. Some were clapping but many were crying. We were all thinking these brave men may never come back.
"But there was still the overwhelming sense of excitement. These men heading to the moon. I'm not sure how to get across how it had lifted the mood after those terrible string of events. It was hard not to get carried away with it."
A line beneath Hinch's front page byline of July 17, 1969 reads: "Only three men are attempting mankind's most daring journey, but the world shared in its beginning".
A divisive hard-nosed talkback radio and TV current affairs host for more than six decades, Hinch later made a name for his trademark lack of sentimentality. But a boyish enthusiasm still shines through when he recalls those days at Cape Kennedy.
At 75, the sight of a full moon still feeds the imagination in the same way the news reports of the first American astronauts - The Mercury Seven - had when he was a teenager.
The launch of Apollo 11 would propel the young newspaper journalist in a new career direction, beaming his voice into the kitchens and living rooms of Australians for the first time through the wireless.
Back in the the viewing stands about five kilometres away, Hinch - at this stage a radio novice - spoke with a clipped, almost British accent down a crackly phone line to the Sydney radio studios of 2GB to broadcast the blast-off live through more than 50 stations across Australia.
His six-minute commentary vividly paints the tension and the excitement of the build up. Hinch remembers the noise, the heat of the handset against his ear in the 37-degree Florida sun and the sweat pouring from his colleagues' brows.
"When the rocket lumbered into the sky, and the shockwaves hit us, I felt like I had been hit in the gut with a baseball bat," Hinch recalls.
"The noise, the energy, was that powerful.
"I remember getting so carried away that I almost used the F-word. I stumbled and, eventually, said, 'it's an ... absolute beauty'."
He described onlookers shouting "go, go, go you beauty, go", and then paused to point his phone at the crowd, shouting down the line: "You can probably hardly hear me, but I'll just let you listen to the noise."
Hinch admits, half a century on, that he can't really add to the most stirring line in his commentary that day: "I know that as long as I live I am never going to see anything quite like this."
The broadcast captured the imagination of Herald reader Diane St John, of Darling Point in Sydney, who two days later wrote a letter to the editor that Hinch had "used the noise of the rocket blasting off, the tension, the lump in his own tremendously excited voice, and the yells of the crowd to produce a masterpiece".
"I looked at the television set and thought it would be wonderful to be at the Cape," she wrote.
"I listened to the radio description and felt I was there."
- SMH/The Age