At 4:17 p.m. on July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong landed Apollo 11 on the moon’s rocky surface in an area known as the Sea of Tranquility — with just about 20 seconds left of landing fuel in the tank.
More than six hours later — at 10:55 p.m. — as over 500 million people sat glued to their televisions and radios, Armstrong stepped out of the spacecraft and onto the moon’s surface, his small but mighty footprint marking a momentous occasion in history.
Now, 50 years later, it’s hard to believe only 11 astronauts have walked on the moon since. But 50 years is an ideal time to celebrate that first small step for man, and Louisville is bringing out the big guns — er, telescopes — for the occasion on Saturday, July 13, at the Norton Commons Amphitheater.
The free event includes all sorts of moon-focused activities and play centers geared toward children, and it also brings some fun for adults with a talk by Dr. Tom Tretter, director of the UofL Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium and a telescope station manned by the Louisville Astronomical Society.
Tretter will share the story of astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong and all the nerdy details about the time before, during and after the moon landing. One such interesting tidbit we came across recently is that scientists believe that five of the six American flags that were planted are still standing, but they’re probably completely faded due to the exposure to solar radiation.
“This will be a great opportunity to celebrate this tremendous milestone,” said Dr. Tretter in a news release. “It’s not often that kids, parents and grandparents can all interact and reflect on a remarkable human achievement like this one. We hope it will bring back memories and also inspire younger folks to dream big.”
Members of the active Louisville Astronomical Society will have their high-powered telescopes pointed directly at the Sea of Tranquility, where Apollo 11 landed, and attendees will be able to both see the site through the telescope and also use a fancy new gadget that allows you to connect your cell phone to the instrument and take a photo.
The event is free and begins at 7:30 p.m. Dr. Tretter’s talk begins at 8:30 p.m., and the telescope viewing starts at 9:30 p.m.
The Blue Crab Food Truck will be on hand as well, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own blankets, chairs and space suits. The Norton Commons Amphitheater is located at 10712 Meeting St. in Prospect.
There are other 50th anniversary celebrations planned in Louisville as well.
• One is taking place Friday, July 12, at the Parklands of Floyds Fork starting at 8:30 p.m. The folks from the Louisville Astronomical Society will be there as well, along with their telescopes, instruments and historical documents.
• Another one will be held Saturday, July 20, at the Kentucky Science Center with a screening of the 1987 film “Capricorn One,” from 7-9 p.m.
• And finally, the NuLu bar Galaxie is celebrating the moon landing all week long, from July 16-20, with various drink specials, musical acts and themed nights, leading up to one big space-themed costume party on Saturday, July 20, starting at 9 p.m. The winning costume receives $250 in cash.