July 16 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, and there are a number of activities planned paying tribute to the world-changing event.
The University of Alabama in Huntsville has a number of events lined up. UAH has played a key role in America’s space program since Marshall Space Flight Center Director Dr. Wernher von Braun helped create the university’s Research Institute in the early 1960s.
Since that time, UAH has become a leading research university in aerospace engineering.
UAH ranks fifth in the nation in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, according to the National Science Foundation. The campus is also 11th in the U.S. in NASA-sponsored research, according to the NSF.
Anniversary events and activities include:
• July 14, 2-5 p.m.: The public is invited to the M. Louis Salmon Library for a behind-the-scenes tour of the archives and a viewing of the documentary, “When We Were Apollo.” Zach Weil, the film's producer, will also give a brief talk. There will be an opportunity to record personal memories of the Apollo 11 mission and a history exhibit curated by UAH Archives and Special Collections staff. Light refreshments with a 1960s theme will be served. This event is free and open to the public.
• July 14-31: “To Land on the Moon: Huntsville and the Apollo Program” will be on display at the M. Louis Salmon Library art gallery. This exhibit highlights the roles of Huntsville and its inhabitants and their contributions to the early space race and the Apollo program. The majority of the materials on display are housed in UAH Special Collections and Archives.
• July 15-19: Unguided tours of Von Braun Research Hall on the UAH campus: The community is welcome to take unguided tours of Von Braun Research Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Posters line the walls of VBRH to chronicle the 20 years Dr. Wernher von Braun lived in Huntsville. Copies of Dr. Wernher von Braun's speech to the Alabama Legislature creating the UAH Research Institute will be available;
• July 19, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Reagan Grimsley, head of UAH's Special Collections, will discuss space history on National Public Radio (WLRH 89.3). Science Friday host Ira Flatow will interview Grimsley and U.S. Space & Rocket Center Curator Ed Stewart on the topic of collecting space history. Segment was pre-taped May 21 and will be broadcast as part of Science Friday's Apollo 50th anniversary programming;
• Saturday, July 20: A fireworks display to mark the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing is set for 8:30 p.m. The North Alabama community is invited to park on the UAH campus for the show, which is expected to last 10 minutes.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center activities include:
• Pass the Torch: Apollo Propulsion and Engines: Join the U.S. Space & Rocket Center at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the National Geographic theater for a panel discussion of the exciting experiences and challenges in development of the 134 rocket engines developed at Marshall Space Flight Center.
• Car show: Anniversary week begins Saturday with a Celebration Car Show with vehicles from the Apollo era on display. A full-scale, Polaris-powered Apollo Lunar Rover replica will also be featured at this event on the Rocket Center grounds. Show to be held adjacent to the east parking lot of the Huntsville Marriott. Free to the public.
• A re-enactment of the Apollo 50 moon landing will be held at 10:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2:15 p.m. on Saturday through Thursday and 2:15 p.m. Friday inside the Saturn V Hall in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration.
• Pass the Torch: The Continuing Paperclip Legacy: Panel discussion from noon to 2 p.m. Monday led by Dr. Klaus Dannenberg with an introduction by Dr. Margrit von Braun. Panelists include Martin Dahm, Curt von Braun, Christel Kuberg Dunn and Dr. Klaus Heimburg. Each will talk about carrying on their fathers’ legacies.
• Pass the Torch: Astronaut Al Worden Community Presentation: Join Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot Col. Al Worden and author Francis French from 2-3 p.m. Monday as they discuss what is considered to be the greatest exploration mission ever made. Worden spent six days orbiting the moon and was the first to conduct a spacewalk into deep space. He was also a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 9 mission and was backup command module pilot for Apollo 12.
• Guinness Book of World Records rocket launch: Join the U.S. Space & Rocket Center at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday as 5,000 Estes rockets are launched on the exact launch time of the Apollo 11 mission, 8:32 a.m. CT. The launch would set a new world record. Limited seating opens at 7 a.m.;
• Pass the Torch panel discussion: Professor Dr. Bernd Ulmann, University for Economy und Management, Frankfurt/Main, Germany, will speak noon Wednesday, July 17, about the on-board control system for the A-4/V-2 rocket developed by Dr. Helmut Hoelzer, the father of the electronic analog computer, and later Marshall Space Flight Center’s director of Computation Laboratory for the Apollo program;
• Pass the Torch panel discussion: Join the U.S. Space & Rocket Center at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20 for a panel discussion about Marshall Space Flight Center’s role in the successful landing on the moon and the trials and tribulations of developing rockets capable of carrying humans into deep space;
• Rocket City Summerfest: Celebrate the anniversary of the day Neil Armstrong took his historic first step on the Moon at the Rocket City Summer Fest Concert. The center will join with celebrations around the world to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission with a concert in the shadow of Huntsville’s iconic Saturn V replica. Tickets are $20 for general admission; and
• Pass the Torch panel discussion: Robert Zimmerman, award-winning science journalist and historian, will speak at 6 p.m. July 25 about Apollo 8. Though the flight of Apollo 8 was the first human journey to another world, it has largely overshadowed by the Apollo 11 mission. Not only did Apollo 8 give the human race our first view of our mother planet as a globe, it was the success of this mission that actually won the space race. Zimmerman will tell this story and its still-echoing historical impact, describing it from the perspective of the three astronauts who flew it.