RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – As the 50th anniversary of the moon landing nears tomorrow, a special musical tribute to the achievement has a major Triangle connection.

On a cruise to Alaska with professional singer/songwriter Ellis Paul in May 2018, well known local investor and crowdfunding expert Mark Easley collaborated with Paul to write, “The Eagle Has Landed.” (See video below.)

Indiana native Easley, a guitarist and songwriter as well as investor in companies such as IoT company Proaxion, the Chapel Hill-based time management Freedom app, and Groundfloor.US, is a Purdue graduate, as was Armstrong. Easley’s father, Jack, also a Purdue graduate, may have been at the school the same time as Armstrong in the late 1940s.

“All Purdue alumni from my generation feel a strong connection to Neil and the Apollo program,” Easley said in an exclusive interview with WRAL Techwire. “When Apollo 11 took off, I was 14. It was the perfect age to be completely thrilled. It was one day in history when everyone on the planet was into the same thing.”

Statue of Armstrong inspired song

“The song is inspired by the beautiful statue we have at Purdue in front of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering,” Easley says. ” As Purdue fans know, it is not a statue of Neil the spaceman, but instead of Neil the college student in 1955. He is sitting on a park bench at Purdue, dressed in his 1955 style clothes, with a stack of math and physics books and a slide rule next to him, and he is staring at the moon!

The Neil Armstrong Statue at Purdue University.

“And to make it complete, just in front of him on the ground are replicas of the famous moonboot footprints he left on the moon. It is an incredibly inspiring statue and story. How could Neil know that just 14 years later, in July of ’69, he would be standing on the moon, fulfilling the dreams of humanity since the dawn of time.

Another new sculpture of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins, a gift from Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, was unveiled at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida July 12. The statue, created by sculptor George Lundeen, stands in the new Moon Tree Garden, surrounded by 12 trees grown from seeds that orbited the moon. Photo by Renee Wright. Copyright Capitol Broadcasting. ARR.

“Let me tell you where I was that day”

“The members of my generation remember that day clearly, as it was one of the biggest events ever, and all around the world people were watching it on TV. Just eight years before, President Kennedy had announced the dream of sending a man to the moon and bringing him safely back to earth, and, with the greatest engineering project of all time, the 400,000 astronauts and engineers of NASA had actually accomplished it.

“The reaction I usually get to the song from people who remember that day is ‘Beautiful song, let me tell you where I was that day.’ Here was Neil Armstrong, standing on the moon, and staring at the earth! It is something we will never forget, and a reminder of what can be accomplished when everyone shares the same dream.”

Easley made a tribute video using the song and posted it on YouTube. You can see the Purdue statue and other photos of the Apollo 11 mission and Neil at the time in the video. Easley and Paul recorded the song at a studio in Woodstock, New York, which, Easley notes, was appropriate, since the famous Woodstock festival occurred in ’69 shortly after the moon landing.

Purdue is interested in licensing the song to use for some of the tributes and promotions they have planned for Neil Armstrong and the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Easley noted in an email to Neil’s son Mark.

Performing the song at Purdue

Easley  visited the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the weekend of July 14 for the unveiling of a new statue of Neil. Armstrong was a native of the northwest Ohio town. Armstrong began his flying career in the area and earned his student flight certificate by age 16. The museum is hosting a 10-day 50th anniversary celebration of the moon landing.

Mark Easley and Mark Armstrong at the Armstrong Museum. Photo courtesy of Mark Easley.

In an email, Easley reports, “Last Sunday (July 14th) we had an awesome visit to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Neil’s son Mark Armstrong invited me to come up and see the unveiling of the two new Neil Armstrong statues which were made by Chaz Fagen, the same artist who made the statue at Purdue that inspired my song. I got to meet Mark, his family, Chaz, and many other nice people there.”

Mark Easley (right) and Chaz Fagen (left) at the Armstrong Museum in Ohio with Fagen’s new sculpture of Armstrong. Photo courtesy of Easley.

In addition, he wrote,  “I also got a chance to play the song live for the outdoor concert they had at the museum in the afternoon.

Mark Easley performing his song at the Armstrong Museum. Photo courtesy of Mark Easley.

“Purdue University has invited me to come up to West Lafayette for their 50th anniversary celebrations, and I will be playing my song and video to kick off the festivities there this Saturday July 20th, ” Easley said.

Easley, now 64, said he felt the film, “First Man,” about Armstrong was a bit heavy on the drama and light on the technical aspects of the moon mission that most interested Neil. “I read his autobiography,” Easley said. “Neil was into the technical pieces of the moonshot and his part in making that happen rather than the emotional side of things.”