Photo: Neil Armstrong/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts
At 10:56 p.m. EDT on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong uttered one of the most famous quotes in human history: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Now, 50 years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, we count down 10 not-so-small ways to honor this month’s giant anniversary.
WALK LIKE AN ASTRONAUT
Long before liftoff, all of the astronauts who would walk on the surface of the Moon trained in the desert and forest around Flagstaff, Arizona, from 1963 to 1972. Join a three-hour guided hike through the Bonito Lava Flow in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument to experience firsthand the places where the astronauts learned to drive the Lunar Roving Vehicle (or moon buggy) and to pick up tiny pebbles while wearing clumsy space-suit gloves.
CHEERS TO 50 YEARS
Sommelier and mixologist Sean Beck developed a trio of cocktails for three Houston restaurants to celebrate the milestone. “I’m a history buff and always enjoyed the study of space,” he says, “so it was easy to find inspiration for such a monumental event.” At Xochi, his Tranquility Base Margarita features a moon rock–inspired ice sphere made from crème de violette and Oaxacan poléo tea. The “moon” also appears in Backstreet Café’s We Came in Peace for All Mankind (pictured), a riff on the classic Last Word cocktail that’s named for the final sentence on the plaque placed on the moon. Finally, at Caracol, the Michael Collins Remembered is an ode to the third Apollo 11 member, who stayed on the command module during the moon walk. “Michael Collins was quite simply the loneliest man in the universe when he was on the far side of the moon, out of communication and view of our planet,” Beck says. “He doesn’t get nearly enough attention. When I think of him, I think of being crazy-brave, passionate, and so calm and in control.” The spin on an old-fashioned captures Collins’s passion through the use of Glenfiddich Fire & Cane Whisky and is served with an ice cube studded with toasted blue corn kernels, which hover in the drink like little moon rocks.
PARTY LIKE IT'S 1969
“As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, I am still in awe by the fact that I walked on the moon,” Buzz Aldrin recently said. He and a slew of other astronauts—along with the retired Air Force One that carried the Apollo 11 crew on a post-mission world tour—will appear at the “black-tie/white-spacesuit” gala at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, on July 13. In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will hold its culminating celebration on July 20 at 10:56 p.m. (the exact time Armstrong’s foot touched the moon). And Space Center Houston will cap its festivities with a ’60s-themed Splashdown party on July 24 to honor the successful return of Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, whose command module floated down to the Pacific Ocean with the help of three enormous parachutes.
WHERE TO SEE MOON MEMORABILIA
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
Thanks in part to a Kickstarter campaign, Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit goes back on display on July 16, for the first time in 13 years.
The Museum of Flight, Seattle
The command module Columbia is the centerpiece of the exhibit Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission (through September 2), which features a 3-D tour of the module’s interior made with high-resolution scans from the Smithsonian.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Merritt Island, Florida
The newly refreshed Apollo/Saturn V Center houses one of the three remaining Saturn V rockets, which propelled the Apollo 11 crew into space, and the Astrovan, which transported them to the launch pad.
HOP ONTO A SPACECRAFT
Although space tourism is still a thing of the future, more than 700 people have reportedly already signed up for a $250,000 commercial flight into orbit that will eventually blast off from the sleek Spaceport America, deep in the New Mexico desert. Until then, check out the Spaceport America Visitor Center, which is housed in a historic adobe building in nearby Truth or Consequences, to test your mettle in a G-force simulator—the perfect training for young space lovers who might be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Mars landing in the not-too-distant future.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A RESTORATION
On June 28, Space Center Houston and Johnson Space Center debuted a totally restored—down to the last scrap of wallpaper and carpet—Apollo Mission Control Center. The goal? If a scientist who worked there in the 1960s arrived today, he or she wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
“[The restoration] will not only help share our history with visitors from around the world,” says Jim Thornton, the restoration project manager, “but also remind our current employees who are planning missions to send humans back to the moon and then further, to Mars, that anything is possible, and we are standing on the shoulders of giants.”
The museum took every detail into account: After workers uncovered original wallpaper and carpeting, curators tracked down the manufacturers and
had them replicate the 1960s look. They also hand-stamped the ceiling tiles with original patterns and ordered a period-appropriate coffee pot on eBay.
“We’re using modern methods to make things look old,” says historic preservation officer Sandra Tetley. The original flip tops on the Visitors Viewing Room ashtrays, for instance, had vanished over the years—likely taken as souvenirs—so Tetley’s team had new ones 3-D printed. Meanwhile, a team at Kansas’s Cosmosphere is restoring the flight control consoles to the original Apollo configuration (they had been modernized for space shuttle launches). These updates have a purpose beyond aesthetics, says Space Center Houston president and CEO William T. Harris: “The accomplishments of the Apollo era inspired people and spurred innovators to chase impossible dreams. We hope experiencing the restored historic Mission Control will spark curiosity and fuel people of all ages to join the science, technology, engineering, and math pathway.”
KIDS IN SPACE
This summer, let your budding astronauts get in on the action. During Discover the Moon Day (July 19) at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in D.C., visitors can follow a route that’s roughly the distance the Apollo 11 crew walked on the moon (about 3,300 feet), stopping at informational stations along the way. On July 20 at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, kids can sketch their own space-suit designs and make suit components from household materials. And Denver’s Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum hosts an Apollo-palooza (July 13–20) with speakers such as NASA flight director Gene Kranz, who was played by Ed Harris in Apollo 13.
SHOOT THE MOON
The moon has served as a muse since the earliest days of both art—the 15,000-year-old Lascaux cave paintings contain a lunar calendar—and photography. Two newly discovered 1840s daguerreotypes, believed to be the earliest existing photographic images of the moon, form the centerpiece of Apollo’s Muse (through September 22) at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is also displaying cameras used by the Apollo crew. At the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., By the Light of the Silvery Moon (through January 5, 2020) includes glass stereographs taken more than a century apart: some captured by British astronomer Warren De La Rue in the 1850s, others by Armstrong and Aldrin on the surface of the moon in 1969. Finally, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Shooting the Moon (through September 2) includes works by Ansel Adams, Garry Winogrand, and “remix artist” Cassandra C. Jones (pictured).
LUNCH WITH AN ASTRONAUT
An out-of-this-world experience—with an otherworldly price tag that starts at $10,000—awaits at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston. The two-night Space Center Houston Package includes travel via helicopter to Ellington Field (a former NASA training center), a private tour of Johnson Space Center, and a private lunch with an astronaut. Afterward, return to earth with the hotel’s Ritual of Five Worlds treatment.
...WE HAVE LIFTOFF
Huntsville, Alabama—aka Rocket City—is the home of the Saturn V rocket. To honor its place in history, the city’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center is launching a record 5,000 model rockets at the exact local time of liftoff, 8:32 a.m., on July 16. The organization has also tasked everyday space lovers with launching their own model, stomp, and makeshift rockets and posting photos with the hashtag #GlobalRocketLaunch.