On July 16, 1969, the huge, 363-feet tall Saturn V rocket launches on the Apollo 11 mission from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, at 9:32 a.m. EDT. Onboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft are astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 was the United States’ first lunar landing mission. While astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the Lunar Module “Eagle” to explore the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon, astronaut Collins remained with the Command and Service Modules “Columbia” in lunar orbit. Photo Credit: NASA
At the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, the celebration of Apollo has been a year-long event.
From Launch Pad Lectures and Apollo themed summer camp classes, to manned space flight exhibits and the new giant screen film Apollo 11, the sky is not the limit at the Museum of Space History.
Throughout the summer, museum educators are visiting rural communities statewide giving Apollo presentations at local libraries. From Questa to Glenwood, Silver City to Lovington, and many places in between, people in fourteen different communities will learn about the Apollo program and the significant role New Mexico had to play in it.
In honor of the July 20 anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic moon landing, the museum has several activities planned as part of One Giant Leap – Celebrating Apollo 11, including a new manned spaceflight gallery opening, a free day at the museum, and a day full of free activities for kids of all ages.
The museum’s education department will offer several hands on activities and hourly trash can launches beginning at 9:00 am. A Saturn V model rocket launch blasts off at 9:15 am in the upper parking lot featuring a scale model of Apollo 11 and its launch tower.
Up next is a model rocket competition that’s open to public participation, visitors are encouraged to bring their own rockets and engines for the Precision Duration Lunar Spot Landing Competition. A twenty foot diameter lunar surface will be the landing zone and the winner will be the contestant who lands on it. If no one lands on the moon, then the contestant with a flight duration closest to 27 seconds will take home the prize.
The museum’s new spaceflight gallery will open that day as well featuring moon rocks from Apollo 11 and Apollo 17, an Apollo-era mission control panel, an Apollo Primary Guidance & Navigation System that flew on Apollo 13, 14, 15, 16, and 1, along with Skylab 1, 2, and 3 (one of only two complete units still in existence), along with several other related pieces of hardware, software and spacesuits.
In addition to the variety of activities taking place inside and outside the museum that day, the New Horizons Dome Theater will be showing Apollo 11: First Steps hourly starting at 10:00 am.
That evening at 7:00 pm, Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll will host a free showing of the inspirational film The Wonder of it All, which focuses on the rarely told human side of the astronauts and their families.
With the Space Museum as the featured institution for the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Wonder on Wheels (WoW) van this summer, many opportunities to reach out to the state and beyond have presented themselves.
The WoW van travels to rural areas in the state without access to a state museum, and on July 19, it will take a trip to El Paso, Texas, where it will be a centerpiece for UTEP’s Apollo celebration.
The next day, the WoW van will show off its “Galaxy of Wonders” exhibit during the museum’s event, and on July 21 it will be showcased at the White Sands Mall in Alamogordo. The mall and the museum have worked together to create a “space” themed exhibit inside the mall that includes the “Eyes on Earth” traveling exhibit, three 20’ x 8’ lunar murals, and a 1/3 scale restored Lunar Module (LM).
Each month, the Museum hosts a free first Friday Launch Pad Lecture. Four of this year’s programs have focused on Apollo to date, with three more on the way.
On September 9, Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll will present The Cape: The History of Cape Canaveral. Museum Outreach Coordinator Tony Gondola will be the speaker on November 1 and his topic will be Best Camping Trip Ever: The Flight of Apollo 12.
Then, on December 6, a former Otero County resident will be featured as Museum Education Specialist Michael Shinabery presents The Voice of NASA: Paul Haney. Haney lived in High Rolls, New Mexico, for many years on a cherry orchard and was a valued member of the community.
For more information about the museum and events, visit the Museum of Space History website.