In April 1969, NASA telephoned the then president of Costa Rica, José Joaquín Trejos Fernández (1966-1970) to ask him for a favor.
The request, according to Don Juan José Trejos Fonseca, the former president’s son, surprised his father, who was asked to write a message to astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
They made up the crew that, for the first time, would reach the Moon, the mission was risky, but it was completed on July 20, 1969, when Armstrong touched the lunar soil.
Don Juan Jose recalled that as soon as the call ended, his father, who died on February 10, 2010, sat in one of the chairs of his office in Casa Presidencial (Presidential House) – at the time located on the site where the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) is now – and there he began to write.
The letter was published by La Nación on July 16, 1969, on page 24, the same day that the astronauts took off aboard the Apollo 11 bound for the Moon, but it had been sent on June 30, 1969.
“I join the fervent desire of all Costa Ricans for the success of the historic feat proposed by the Apolo-11, as it represents the scientific and technical advance achieved by man in his peaceful struggle to conquer space and in how much the crew of that ship, represent the courage, the will, the spirit of adventure and human ingenuity,” says part of the text of Trejos, who was then 53 years old.
“I get very emotional when I see her (the Moon) because I remember so many things about Dad, what he was like and everything he did and because that message will be for eternity.” Juan José Trejos
“As a representative of the Costa Rican nation, I extend our wishes to the heroes of Apollo 11 and to all those who have made it possible for their historic feat to be carried out,” Trejos added in the document.
According to the younger Trejos, his father wrote the document by hand and one of his characteristics is that everything was in pencil.
“When Dad finished writing the letter, he joined us with Mom and my brothers and he read it to us, he was very excited,” he recalled.
The Moon reminds him of his father
NASA contacted Trejos and 72 other leaders to dedicate a few words. These messages arrived in the United States through mails and telegrams, then recorded on a metal disk about the size of a ¢100 colones coin.
These messages traveled in a box next to the astronauts, who left it on the lunar surface.
“Indeed the message is on the Moon, we do not know where, but there it is. It’s a very nice message because dad wrote very beautiful things, he had that gift,” said Juan Jose.
Juan José confessed he remembers the privilege his father had every time he looks at the Moon.
“I get very excited when I see her (the moon) because I remember so many things about Dad, about what he was like and everything he did and because that message will be for eternity and one produces enormous happiness.
“I hope that in the future when it is inhabited, tourists can see that sign of my father who wrote with much love.”
Trejos confessed that when his three children were small, he told them constantly that in the moon there was a bit of his father who was going to be there for many years.
Juan José, his parents and his brothers lived that historic moment in the Presidential House, as he remembers, that’s where they lived.
“I was 26 years old and we were watching the broadcast on a black and white TV, we were all quite excited, but more dad. When the astronaut (Neil Armstrong) put his feet on the Moon, Dad got up from his chair and said ‘this is incredible’ and started to applaud, I think that of all of us who were there, he was the happiest,” he said.
That same emotion, says Trejos, was what the 1,710,083 inhabitants that Costa Rica had at that time felt.
“Costa Ricans were convinced that what was being seen or heard was real, it was believed to be an advance of humanity and to this day it is something that is still being thought because what was done was very important,” he said.
Juan Jose Trejos Fonseca was a legislator for the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) in the periods 1982-1986 and 1990-1994 and was also Minister of Coordination of the Social Area in the government of Abel Pacheco between May 2002 and October of the same year.