2019 celebrates an important anniversary for the United States: the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing, the 50th of the first man on the Moon.
50 years from that remote July 20, 1969 when the entire world followed the Apollo 11 crew landing on the Moon with bated breath.
When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon aboard the LEM while Michael Collins remained in orbit on the Command Module waiting for their return. And when Armstrong set foot on the lunar soil 6 hours later stating the famous quotation “This is a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
A target reached thanks to an incredible effort by NASA and all men, scientists and astronauts who committed their lives – tragically in some cases – in the pursuit of the goal fixed by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy during the speech he delivered at the Rice University in Houston on September 12, 1962.
“We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard;
because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”
(John F. Kennedy)
Today it is possible to relive and celebrate this event through a series of locations and itineraries on purpose in the USA – from the NASA to the museums and military bases, et cetera – to put inside larger road trips and, furthermore, through books and cult movies which revive in details the protagonists and the stages of the Moon Landing.
Find down here a detailed list of locations with practical info, tips and really many cues to plan an involving “Space theme” journey!
50th anniversary of the Moon Landing: the locations in the USA to visit absolutely
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Space Center – Cape Canaveral, Florida
The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Space Center is the place where all the missions of the NASA space program left in the 1960s and ‘70s (and still leave today), the Apollo 11 one which took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting foot on the Moon in July 1969 included.
Today here it is possible to relive – inside the original control room of July 16,1969 – a series of multimedia experiences tied to the event, the tour of the launching pad and a whole area dedicated to the new NASA mission – the Mars planet – included.
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center – Houston
The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the seat of the Apollo Mission Control Center, the original control room which followed all the Apollo missions into the space, the labs where the astronauts for the space missions are selected and trained, and the hangar which hosts one of the latest 3 authentic Saturn V, the rockets used to send the Apollo shuttles in orbit.
USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – New York City
Historic U.S. aircraft carrier used during the Second World War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War, besides as rescue ship of space missions.
Today it is a museum – Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum – where you can admire the first Space Shuttle built by NASA in the ‘70s – the Enterprise – besides many relics dedicated to the sea and military US history.
National Air and Space Museum – Washington DC
The National Air and Space Museum is one of the most important museums of the Smithsonian, in Washington DC.
It includes and keeps the largest collection of airplanes, carriers and space shuttles in the world, besides being an important center of the research and technology of the aviation and space flight in general.
Among the many relics dedicated to the space and flight history there’s the original Command Module of Apollo 11, the space shuttle which took Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins into the lunar orbit and which then the LEM taking Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon took off from.
Space & Rocket Center – Huntsville, Alabama
The Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama is the section of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center accessible to tourists where the rockets/carriers which took in the orbit all the NASA Space missions have been developed.
The museum shows the story and all the life-size copies of the rockets, besides an interesting experience with the Space Camp, where kids of any age can go in touch with space and the astronauts’ world. Exactly from here the adventure of “our” Samantha Cristoforetti – the astronaut of the ESA among the protagonists of a long mission in the ISS, the International Space Station – have started.
White Sands Missile Range – New Mexico
White Sands Missile Range is a military base (it can be visited) which is a part of a widen military area, about 3.200 square km in the heart of the Tularosa Basin. It was found by the Government of the United States during the Second World War in order to start a series of special studies about the rocketry as military defense and planning in space field.
Here the Manhattan Project was born: the studies which led to the Atomic Bomb, then detonated for the first time right 90km to the north of Missile Range, in the site of Trinity (today it can be entered only through guided tours organized by the base). Here the first experiments about space rocketry and the suborbital flight were kept on. And always here the Columbia Space Shuttle landed in 1982.
Meteor Crater – Arizona
The Meteor Crater National Landmark is a crater with three and a half km circumference and 600 meters deep generated 50 million years ago by the fall of a giant meteorite in the middle of Arizona, near Williams.
It was used by NASA to prepare and train the astronauts of different APOLLO missions, because the bottom of the crater was studied and selected by scientists of the space program as one of the most similar terrestrial surfaces to the lunar soil.
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve – Idaho
Craters of the Moon National & Preserve is a wonderful national and natural Monument of Idaho.
It includes the biggest basalt lava extension and volcanic craters of the country. For this reason and for its particular conformation – when you go through it in some parts you have the impression to be on the Moon – it was used by astronauts immediately after Apollo 11 to study the geology of the land and the specimen related, in order to get prepared for the following missions on the Moon.
50th anniversary of the Moon Landing: the books to read
“Se il sole muore” and “Quell giorno sulla Luna” – both by the famous Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci – are – in my opinion – the books to read to get prepared not only emotionally, but also technically, for the tour of the locations quoted above and to understand how things went actually that magic July 1969 above all.
Oriana Fallaci spent about 5 years – from 1964 to 1969 – and long periods at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, to document as a reporter for the “Europeo” the NASA space program, from Gemini as far as Apollo 11.
She had the chance to meet almost all the astronauts – she struck up a friendship with many of them – and to learn technically all the phases of the Moon Landing – that she told in detail.
In both her books – the first one published in 1965 and the second one in 1970 – she tells about the strength, courage, determination, but also fears, difficulties and problems of these special men who chose first of all the Moon – even before their own families.
Besides reporting live (many texts of the book are the transcriptions of the phone callings with the “Europeo” editorial staff) the entire adventure of Apollo11, from the launch at cape Canaveral in Florida as far as the Moon Landing watched with the international press at the Apollo Mission Control Center in Houston.
50th anniversary of the Moon Landing: the movies to watch
Find down here the trailers of the most representative movies of the “space Rush” of the NASA in the ‘60s. Those ones to watch absolutely before leaving!
The story of Neil Armstrong, of the astronaut – and of the man above all – who set foot as the first one on the Moon on July 20, 1969. The Apollo program, from the beginning to the Moon, seen and told through Armstrong’s public and personal stories.
The real story of the Apollo 13 Mission, the third one – after Apollo 11 and 12 – landing on the Moon.
It became popular for the famous quotation by James Lowell “Hey Houston, we’ve got a problem here” when an explosion on board the Command Module not only prevented the three astronauts to reach the Moon, but it complicated a bit their return to Earth.
A 2016 amazing movie, taken from a book by Margot Lee Shetterley and inspired by a real story, “Hidden Figures”: the story of the Afro-American women who helped winning the “Space Rush”.
It deals about with extreme strength and irony – through the real experiences of three Afro-American female mathematicians and scientists – not only an important part of the NASA space program, but also one of the most disputed historic periods of America in the 1960s: that one related to racial segregation in the Southern States.
The Right Stuff
A movie drawn from the novel by Tim Wolf – The Right Stuff.
It deals about the story and the events of the first astronauts sent into the space, seen not only as great heroes, but as men above all.
Find here the article as regards the Conference 2019 in BIT – From America into Space. 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 through locations, itineraries, movies, music and “space” voyages – organized by Visit USA Italy.
I took part into it as speaker together with other members, the President Olga Mazzoni, Mr. Luca Urbani (former astronaut) and Mrs. Letizia Davoli, journalist and presenter of the TV program “C’è spazio”.