This Friday, July 19, marks the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon and the first time a human set foot on the lunar surface.
Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969, Four days later, while Collins orbited the Moon in the command module, Armstrong and Aldrin landed Apollo 11’s lunar module, Eagle, on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility,
NASA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon mission and look to the future of exploration on the Moon and Mars with a live, two-hour television broadcast Friday, and partner-led events taking place across the country this week through July 20.
John Guice, president of the Franklin Parish Library Board, reflected on the historic event as the anniversary date approaches.
“As a college student in 1958, I remember how shocked the nation was about our “education system” thinking we had somehow failed in our assumed destiny to be a great nation out distancing all other nations. The Russians had just put “Sputnik” into orbit and our education system had somehow failed us. Then when Neil Armstrong made “one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind”, America came out of our long self-image as being “behind the Russians’. We were the “champs” again,” Guice said.
Retired educator Mabel Thomas says she remembers watching the televised moon landing.
“I remember seeing it on t.v. and it was amazing what we accomplished,” Thomas said. “I can remember saying that with our knowledge that we have, and studying chemistry and physics and all that, it was amazing what we could do and how we use the information to better our understanding of the universe,”
Kay LaFrance-Knight, Winnsboro Main Street director and Old Post Office Museum curator, also reflected on her memories from that time.
“My memory of the moon landing is more ‘of the times’ than the actual event,” LaFrance said. I was a student at Northeast (now ULM) and my mother and I were living in a Monroe together while my dad was serving his second tour of duty in Vietnam. Mom and I watched the moon landing together, and, like the rest of the world, were so proud and amazed. But our main thought was our hope that my Dad was able to see what we were seeing. We knew it would give him so much encouragement and hope for our country, which he and so many of our troops desperately needed at the time.”
Franklin Parish Tax Assessor Rod Elrod was in high school then.
“I was 15 years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I remember a great sense of pride and optimism which seemed to permeate the entire country. It seemed like anything was possible if we focused on one goal and all worked together,” Elrod said.
Marcy Thompson, a writer for The Sun, said the event was one of those things etched in her memory.
“I remember spending the evening with my best friend, Mary Ann Griffing (now Cureington), at her home which was just up the street from mine in Gilbert. We were 14 and 15 years old at the time. The televised event had been eagerly anticipated. Afterwards, we walked outside to look up at the moon in wonder,” Thompson said.
For those who are too young to recall Apollo 11 and its mission, or who might want to refresh their memories or learn more, NASA offers a wealth of information and special activities designed for all ages.
Highlights of events taking place this week in which NASA is participating include:
July 18 to 20 – Apollo 50 on the National Mall
NASA and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum are hosting the Apollo 50 Festival, a free three-day event on the National Mall in Washington, July 18-20. The event will include exhibits, speakers, demonstrations and a host of fun activities for the entire family. NASA researchers, scientists and engineers will showcase NASA’s newest technologies and innovations that will take us forward to the Moon and on to Mars. Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT July 18 and 19, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 20. For more information, visit:
July 19 – Dedication of U.S. Postal Service’s 1969 Moon Landing Stamp
The U.S. Postal Service will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and humanity’s first steps on the Moon with two Forever stamps. It will dedicate the stamps in a ceremony at 11 a.m. EDT at the Apollo/Saturn V Center of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. For more information, visit:
July 19 – NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future
On July 19, NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future will air 1 to 3 p.m. EDT on NASA TV and the agency’s website and will be simulcast on the Discovery Science Channel. Hosted from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, the show will salute the heroes of Apollo and discuss the agency’s future plans, with segments at:
- The National Mall in Washington
- NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, including the newly restored Apollo Mission Control Operations Room and Space Center Houston, Johnson’s official visitors center
- The U.S. Space & Rocket Center near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
- Neil Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio
- The Apollo 11 command module on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle
The show also will feature slices of Americana at other anniversary celebrations around the country.
At 3 p.m., NASA TV will air a special program, STEM Forward to the Moon, which will feature kids participating in Moon landing simulations at four partner museums across the nation:
- Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas
- St. Louis Space Center in St. Louis
- Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, Calif.
- Arizona Science Center in Phoenix
NASA also will bring Apollo 50th anniversary participants together to take part in a virtual engineering design challenge on social media. Along with each of its museum partners, NASA invites the public to help build a component of NASA’s return to the Moon using simple household materials. For more information, visit: https://spacestem.nasa.gov/
July 19 – NASA at Nasdaq Closing Bell
NASA’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit and astronaut Jeanette Epps will represent the agency during the Nasdaq Stock Market closing bell ceremony in New York City.
Ongoing – Restored Apollo Mission Control Center
In celebration of the golden anniversary of the first landing, the Apollo Mission Control Center at Johnson has been restored to appear as it did in that era, ready to begin its new life as a source of learning and inspiration. Visitors to NASA can experience the restored control room as part of regular tours provided by Space Center Houston.
July 20: National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Pops presents Apollo 11: A Fiftieth Anniversary
NASA is collaborating with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington and the National Symphony on a musical and visual tribute to the 1969 Moon landing. The concert, which begins at 9 p.m. EDT, will be hosted by Meredith Vieira and Adam Savage and feature appearances by singer-songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams, singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield, composer Michael Giacchino, actor LeVar Burton, and more. For more information, visit:
For more information about NASA’s Apollo 11 mission and a list of other events taking place across the country, visit:
Locally, the Franklin Parish Library, 705 Prairie St., Winnsboro, has books on display related to Apollo 11 which can be checked out. Books are available which are suitable for readers of all ages.