It was one small step for man, and … well, you know. This summer marks the 50th anniversary of mankind’s giant leap, and NASA centers, museums and even entire cities are gearing up to celebrate, planning late-night moon parties, symphony performances and alien autopsies.
Here are eight standouts to help you get your moon magic on this summer.
The cities that got us to space
Cities in the United States where rockets were built, astronauts were trained and spaceships were launched are pulling out the stops to celebrate the men and women who got us into space, and back again.
The festivities center around NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and a fully restored, Apollo-era Mission Control room (down to the original polyester on the chairs), which will open to the public in June. Highlights in the roster of events include a ticketed dinner with former flight director Gene Kranz (who was portrayed by Ed Harris in “Apollo 11”) on Friday, July 19; a festival on July 20 with live music, STEM activities for children and a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon; and a 1960s-themed Splashdown party on July 24th. Find details and tickets on the Apollo Anniversary Celebration website.
Apollo 11 launched from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Fla., and the team there will be paying special tribute on July 16, along with a moonwalk celebration on the 20th. Details are still being finalized, but expect employees in period outfits, Tang to drink and a real-time re-creation of the launch morning in 1969. More event details to come.
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., (another of this year’s 52 Places) is keen for the world to remember its role in getting a man on the moon — Huntsville developed the Saturn 5 rocket that got the Apollo missions off the ground. It is celebrating the achievements by simultaneously launching 5,000 model rockets at 8:32 a.m. on July 16 — a new Guinness World Record, assuming the launch is successful. Other festivities include an Apollo-era car show on July 13, an Apollo 11-themed beer garden on July 18, and Rocket City Summer Fest on July 20, an outdoor concert taking place “in the shadow” of Huntsville’s Saturn 5 replica. Find details and book tickets here.
Flagstaff, Ariz., is already in the midst of a year-and-a-half long moon-centric celebration; “Flagstaff’s Lunar Legacy” highlights the region’s role in training astronauts to go to the moon. Events include organized hikes to historic sites, like the United States Geological Survey’s simulated moon field and an all-day celebration at the Lowell Observatory on July 20th. Look for details on specific events and participating sites on the city’s website.
Celebrations from coast to coast
The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. will begin its festivities on July 16 with the unveiling of Armstrong’s newly conserved spacesuit. Other activities include “Discover the Moon Day” on July 19, which offers visitors chances to chat with museum scientists one-on-one about moon-related projects. A day-and-night celebration on July 20, that will run until 2 a.m., concludes the celebrations. Look for more details on the week’s events here.
San Francisco’s Exploratorium has organized a “Moon Month” with special exhibits, programs and more. View an installation from the Museum of the Moon (a large-scale model of the moon), tune in for a livestream of the July 2 solar eclipse in Chile or stop by for space-themed, adults-only “After Dark” events on Thursday evenings. On July 20, the museum will stay open until midnight and feature newly restored footage of the moon landing, Apollo-era music and costumes, and an after-hours dance party. Find Moon Month details here.
For an artistic take on the space race, head to Denver, Colo., for the Colorado Symphony’s Lunar Landing 50th Anniversary Celebration. The program, organized by the music director and self-described “space kid” Brett Mitchell, will feature renditions of John Williams’s scores from “E.T.,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Star Wars.” Two contemporary pieces from the composers Mason Bates and James Beckel will also be played. Expect sung and spoken-word accompaniments, references to John F. Kennedy’s 1961 moon shot speech, archival footage and a special surprise encore. Get tickets and details here.
To the moon … and beyond
No series of space celebrations would be complete without mention of Roswell, N. M., the self-proclaimed “U.F.O. capital of the world.”
The city’s annual U.F.O. festival, from July 5-7, will shine special attention on the moon landing in its roster of events. In addition to a parade, costume contests for pets and humans and “Men in Black”- themed flash mobs, attendees can catch moon shows at the Roswell Planetarium and watch an alien autopsy courtesy of the New Mexico Museum of Space History’s Mobile Museum. Get details and a schedule for the festival here.
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