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How to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing

How to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing


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Celebration after Moon landing
Courtesy NASA

July 20, 2019 at 4:17:40PM ET marks exactly fifty years from when the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle touched down on the Moon. There are going to be events and activities galore to celebrate the anniversary, honor the historic achievement, and explore how the space program is preparing for the future.

There are way too many events to include them all here. What follows are some of the highlights, including where you can get more information about these, and other, events around the country.

A mock-up of The People’s Moon exhibit in Times Square.
A mock-up of The People’s Moon exhibit in Times Square.
The People’s Moon

The People’s Moon in Times Square, New York City

If you’re artistically inclined, then you may want to be in the Times Square area for a free family celebration on July 20th, called The People’s Moon. The event is a project from British artist Helen Marshall, in cooperation with the Aldrin Family Foundation and the Discovery Channel, and will feature Marshall’s giant mosaic of the famous Moon boot print, made up of photos from people around the world. The display will be capped off by footage from the Moon landing displayed on several of the giant screens in Times Square. The footage will be shown simultaneously at the Lights in Piccadilly Circus in London, and at the Art Science Museum in Marina Bay, Singapore.

“Apollo 50: Go for the Moon” on the National Mall in Washington, DC

The Smithsonian is pulling  out all the stops to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in Washington, DC. As a prelude to the main events, the museum will project a 363-foot image of the Saturn V rocket on the east face of the Washington Monument from 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm on July 16-18. And then on July 19th and 20th, a show entitled “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon” will be projected on the face of the Monument (along with supporting screens); the shows will begin at 9:30 pm, 10:30 pm and 11:30 pm. 

Viewing areas will be set aside on the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle between 9th and 12th Streets.

The Apollo 50 Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC

The National Air and Space Museum and NASA are sponsoring the Apollo 50 Festival outside the museum on the National Mall. There will be hands-on exhibits from a variety of organizations and companies, live performances and speeches by astronauts, authors and scientists. The festival will take place July 18th and 19th from 9 am to 5 pm, and July 20th from 9 am to 8 pm.

Armstrong on the Moon
Courtesy NASA

”The Eagle Has Landed” Late-Night Celebration at the Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC

The Air and Space Museum will be sponsoring a whole slew of activities, including a late-night event with films, music and activities to celebrate the moment (at 10:56 pm ET) that Neil Armstrong took his famous one giant step. The partying will continue until 2 am.

Televised Events on NASA TV

Besides the Apollo 50 Festival, NASA has a number of celebrations on its schedule —although several, such as National Symphony Orchestra Pops presents Apollo 11: A Fiftieth Anniversary, are pricey and / or sold out.

Fortunately, many of the events that NASA is sponsoring will be televised. For example, on July 19th, NASA TV and NASA’s website will be showing a program called NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future, from 1 to 3 p.m. EDT.

Visit the Command Module or Recreate the Mission Via Augmented Reality

If you have an AR-capable mobile device, there are a few different ways for you to interact with landmarks of lunar exploration history. Google and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum have arranged for you to virtually bring the Apollo 11 command module right into your backyard. Do a search on Apollo 11, and look for the box that suggests “See the Apollo 11 command module up close” and click on “View in 3D.” Other AR images, such as Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit, will be available later in the month.

And if you’ve always wanted to take a trip to the moon, you can use your iOS or Android device to follow the path of the moon mission. Released by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, JFK Moonshot is an AR app that, according to the library, “features the first-ever full-scale augmented reality simulation of the Saturn V Rocket launch and will take users on the five-day journey from the Earth to the Moon.” If you can visit the library on July 16th, you can use your phone to see a full-scale recreation of the take-off; otherwise, you can watch it using a tabletop AR version.

Footprint on Moon
Courtesy NASA

A Giant Leap OutDoor Celebration in Houston, TX

Texans do everything big, and so Houston, home of the Johnson Space Center, is blowing out all the stops to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landing. The free event will take place at Discovery Green on July 20th, and will include a paratrooper landing and an aerial parachute demonstration, exhibitions from the Johnson Space Center and the Long Star Flight Museum, and a screening of the 2019 documentary Apollo 11.

Dancing in the Streets in Huntsville, AL

Not to be outdone, the residents of Huntsville AL, home of the Marshall Space Flight Center, will be dancing in the streets as performances representing the last five decades celebrate the moon landing from 5 pm to 9 pm on July 19th in Northside Square.

Astronaut footprint on the moon
Photo: NASA

One Giant Leap Celebration at Kennedy Space Center, FL

The Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be offering a variety of special exhibits on July 20th, including Neil Armstrong’s blue Corvette, footage of the moon landing and kids’ activities. If you’re willing to pay a bit more, an “enhanced Moon landing event” includes a wax figure of Neil Armstrong from Madame Tussaud’s and the world’s largest Moon Pie. 

Other Events Around the Country

If you’re not going to be near Times Square, Washington, D.C., or one of the major space centers, you can still help celebrate the moon landing. Museums around the country will be having a variety of exhibitions and special events. These include:

A wide range of other activities, celebrations and exhibits are happening around the country; you can find a more extensive listing here.