By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
It was one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind. Fifty years later, it is still an awe-inspiring image: a human walking on the moon. On July 20, 1969, humans walked on the moon for the first time, an event that transfixed not just the United States, but the whole world. It’s time to celebrate this tremendous achievement, and there are fun opportunities to do that in Washington, DC.
When Neil Armstrong took those steps after he and colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins landed on the moon, it was a moment that changed the world. It still stands as a source for inspiration and celebration, and here’s where you can celebrate this weekend:
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is leading a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions. Tapping into its renowned collection and expertise, its activities in Washington, DC, include fun and educational (and free!) events for all ages. Among the Apollo 11 activities:
- See the spacesuit: Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit from the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing is on display for the first time in 13 years in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. The spacesuit recently underwent an extensive conservation process funded by thousands of public donations. You can see this at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, during regular hours. It will be displayed in the Wright Brothers gallery across from the piece of the Wright flyer that Neil Armstrong took with him to the moon in 1969.
- Experience (or re-live!) the launch: Watch the Saturn V rocket as it gets ready for liftoff… from the National Mall! In this unique celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the Washington Monument stars as the Saturn V rocket! This special presentation features a 363-foot Saturn V rocket projected on the east face of the Washington Monument and a special “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon” show. This presentation, created by the National Air and Space Museum, takes place July 16 through 20, 2019, 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday, July 19 and 20, the event includes “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon,” a 17-minute show that combines full-motion projection mapping artwork and archival footage to recreate the launch of Apollo 11 and tell the story of the first Moon landing. The show will unfold on the face of the Washington Monument and supporting screens, including a 40-foot-wide recreation of the famous Kennedy Space Center countdown clock. The free show will run at 9:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and 11:30 pm on Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20.
- Enjoy a late-night celebration: Enjoy the museum after hours with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to celebrate this milestone anniversary! On Saturday, July 20, you can visit the Air and Space Museum in DC from 8 pm to 2 am for fun activities that include special presentations, trivia, an Apollo 11-themed concert, hands-on science activities and demos, a rebroadcast of the moon landing, a spacesuit fashion show, and late-night films. Be sure to be there in time for the special countdown at 10:56 pm to celebrate the exact time Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.
National Archives, Washington, DC
Some of the documents related to the moon landing are at the National Archives in Washington, DC. To celebrate the Apollo 11 anniversary, National Archives is showing some films, including, on Saturday, July 20, “First Man,” which tells the story of the first manned mission to the Moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and the decade leading to the historic Apollo 11 flight, based on the book by James R. Hansen.
Children’s Science Center, Fairfax, VA
Commemorate the launch of Apollo 11 and its historic landing at Apollo Palooza, a fun afternoon on July 20 at the Children’s Science Center. This hands-on science museum in Fairfax, geared to younger children but open to all ages, is having several special activities related to Apollo and space in general. From noon to 3 pm, explore the Lab and visit the different stations with our Moon Passport. Experiment with payloads on your very own Air Rocket in the Inspiration Hub, explore the fundamentals of physics with It’s All Relative, and more… kids can even create their own “rocket launches” with a simple chemical reaction. Then from 3 pm to 4 pm, meet with Dov Rhodes, a Research Fellow at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who will talk about the lunar environment and implications for human and robotic explorers, and wrap the afternoon up with a celebration of the historic landing. Regular admission fees apply.
David M. Brown Planetarium, Arlington, VA
Enjoy all things space-related during fun and free afternoon at the David Brown Planetarium in Arlington in honor of the Apollo 11 anniversary! From noon to 3 pm on July 20, enjoy free Planetarium shows, plus meet friendly imperial storm troopers from the 501st Legion, admire a LEGO lunar lander model, listen to Apollo themed music from Dr Jim (Thorne), and maybe win a door prize.
Photo: P. Hall