After several thwarted attempts, Space Shuttle Endeavour flight STS-127 is set to launch tonight at 6:51 p.m. EDT (weather permitting) as the 29th mission to the International Space Station. Yet the press is quiet, cameras aren’t glued to the launch pad, and it’s doubtful the crew will come home to a tickertape parade. Space travel has unfortunately lost some of its luster, but if we turn back the clock to decades ago, when the Internet, cell phones, and putting a probe on Mars were imagined only found in science fiction films, we’d find a more enthusiastic audience.
Why? Because July 20 will mark the 40th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission–the first manned lunar landing. Four decades have passed since Neil Armstrong made that “giant leap for mankind,” igniting a string of successful moon missions, a space shuttle program, and flights to Mars within our grasp.
Across the country, NASA is commemorating the historic event with a host of public programs. Take your family so they may relive the accomplishments of the Apollo 11 crew and spark a new excitement around space exploration in the next generation.
The Apollo Treasures Gallery opens at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex
in Florida. Join astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11; Charlie Duke, Apollo 16; Al Worden, Apollo 15; Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14; and Walt Cunningham, Apollo 7 for the unveiling of this new exhibit which features Apollo 14 Commander Alan Sheppard’s space suit, instructions from Apollo 16 on how to deploy the American flag, and other artifacts.
Stop by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts for the National Symphony Orchestra’s “Salute to Apollo: The Kennedy Legacy,”
a musical tribute to the Apollo program. Tickets are free and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis the morning of the concert in the Hall of Nations.
Check out Moonfest 2009
at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. This kid-friendly event will feature musical performances, rocket launches, and scientific talks about Apollo and future space missions.
Also on July 19, the National Air and Space Museum will host a book signing with Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Alan Bean.
in Washington, D.C. will host an Apollo 40th Anniversary Educational Forum. A special panel discussion featuring three Apollo astronauts will discuss the historic lunar landing and take questions from the audience. The event will be broadcast to six science centers and museums around the country. The Newseum is also offering free admission July 18-20 for up to three children under the age of 18 with the purchase of one adult ticket.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
For those who don’t live near an anniversary event location, visit www.wechoosethemoon.org, a real-time re-creation of the Apollo 11 mission. This online module lets you track 11 stages of the mission and then access archival video and images related to each stage.
For a full list of 40th anniversary events visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/40th/events.html
Follow STS-127 Commander Mark Polansky on Twitter @Astro_12
National Geographic Video: How Would it Be to Live on the Moon?