College of Science News
Planetarium celebrates 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing
The UTA Planetarium on July 20 hosted a daylong celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The Apollo 11 mission launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969. On July 20, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon’s surface in the lunar module Eagle while Michael Collins piloted the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit. Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon, followed soon after by Aldrin. The astronauts returned safely to Earth on July 24.
The Planetarium’s special “Mooniversary” program was attended by more than 700 people and featured fun activities for kids, public lectures by UTA faculty members, special shows, Apollo 11 trivia, and the Planetarium’s regularly scheduled Saturday shows.
A telescope with a special filter was set up outside the Planetarium to allow visitors to safely view the Sun, and after nightfall, visitors were treated to stargazing during the first public event at the Planetarium’s telescope observatory atop the UTA Park Central parking garage.
“It was a great day and we’re thrilled that so many people came out to celebrate this important historical event,” said Levent Gurdemir, UTA Planetarium director. “The moon landing was one of the great achievements of human history. It was wonderful to have so many young children come to the Planetarium to learn about this significant event and have so much fun while doing it.”
Special planetarium shows included “Apollo Missions,” which detailed all of the Apollo missions leading up to and including Apollo 11; and “Dawn of the Space Age,” a show covering the Space Race between the United States and the USSR, and Apollo 11’s triumphant landing on the moon.
Gurdemir treated an audience inside the Planetarium to an overview of how technologies developed by NASA during the Apollo missions have made our everyday lives better. He was followed by Manfred Cuntz, UTA professor of physics, who talked about “Moons and Planets” and the relative distance of various planetary bodies and moons in relation to the distance between the Earth and the Moon. Dora Musielak, UTA adjunct professor in physics, talked about the future of humans in space during her public lecture, titled “Another Giant Leap for Humankind.”
Students from three of UTA’s student science organizations – the Society of Physics Students, the Olympus Mons Astronomy Club, and Students for the Exploration and Development of Space – helped young visitors assemble and test homemade miniature rockets and lunar landers. They also helped youngsters play games including “Pin the Lunar Lander on the Moon.”
The UTA College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering provided models of the Saturn V rocket (which launched Apollo 11 into space), Apollo spacecraft models, and a large-scale mission plan poster to display in the Planetarium.
“The Planetarium staff did a fantastic job in organizing and coordinating these highly successful activities commemorating this very important event,” said Alexander Weiss, professor and chair of the Department of Physics. “This is just the kind of science education and public outreach activity for which the Planetarium was designed.”