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Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon.
Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon.
Photo by Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong/NASA

50 Years After Apollo 11: Sky Fest, 50th Live and Space on Screen's Armstrong

As Houston continues its massive countdown to the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 20, we've been celebrating the historic occasion with all sorts of space-themed activities, including live music and art, a 50th Live celebration at Space Center Houston, a screening of the new documentary about Neil Armstrong, and touching a piece of the moon at the Lunar and Planetary Institute's Sky Fest.

Apollo 11 Moon Launch, Cape Kennedy, Florida, is on view at the MFAH beginning July 20.
Apollo 11 Moon Launch, Cape Kennedy, Florida, is on view at the MFAH beginning July 20.
Photo by Garry Winogrand, © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and MFAH

July 16 marks 50 years since Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with hopes of making history on the moon. It was a time of optimism and uncertainty, with millions watching in person or on television, so take a moment next Tuesday and think about how the race for space unified all of humanity with the common goal of seeing man set foot on the moon.

We're hoping the skies are clear on Monday, July 15, when we can cast our eyes heavenward at 9:25 p.m. as the International Space Station will be visible for six whole minutes. NASA has a Spot The Station widget and you can even sign up for e-mail or text alerts for every time it flies overhead.

If The Big Bang Theory had been set in Houston, we're convinced more than a few of the television show's storylines would have revolved around Mixers & Elixirs at HMNS. Raj unable to speak to girls unless he took a shot of alcohol, Sheldon completely oblivious to social cues, and meet-cute moments among the smart social set. This month's theme is From Houston to the Moon with headliner The Space Rockers, DJ Dame Hype, and some of the city's best food trucks: Dipped Dessert, Moon Rooster, Satellite Pizza, Foreign Policy and Luv Me Tenders. Cash bars, dancing and a night of mingling against the moon and space themed exhibits sounds out of this world.

Mixers & Elixirs is scheduled for July 19 from 8-11 p.m. Friday at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. $15 to $25.

Over at the Houston Museum of Natural Science's Sugar Land campus, it's a one-two punch with a lunchtime Moon Festival followed by Nighttime Stargazing after dark, weather permitting. If the children have been whining all summer that "there's nothing to do," then stimulate their imaginations at HMNS when a NASA ambassador discusses what it would feel like to live on the moon, an expert docent talks about NASA's past and future, and then they can try their hand crafting or reading a space-related book to the P.A.W.S. therapy dogs. After the sun sets, return for three hours of stargazing with volunteer astronomers from the HMNS George Observatory; you'll find telescopes on the south lawn.

The Moon Festival is scheduled for July 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. The Nighttime Stargazing is scheduled for July 19 from 8-11 p.m. Friday, both at HMNS at Sugar Land, 13016 University Boulevard, Sugar Land. For information, call 281-313-2277 or visit hmns.org/hmns-at-sugar-land. Free to $12.

The brand new documentary, Armstrong, tells the story of Neil Armstrong from his childhood in Ohio to his first steps on the moon, and incorporates home videos shot by Armstrong himself as well as unseen footage from NASA. This special edition of Space Center Houston's monthly space-related film series, Space on Screen, also features dinner in the Astronaut Gallery against a backdrop of flight and space suits.

A screening of Armstrong is scheduled for July 18 at 6 p.m. Thursday at Space Center Houston, 1601 Nasa Parkway. For information, call 281-244-2100 or visit spacecenter.org. $24.95 to $39.95.

This photo shows the Mission Control Center being put together; the project is now completed.
This photo shows the Mission Control Center being put together; the project is now completed.
Photo by NASA

All eyes have been on Space Center Houston this month with the unveiling of the historic Apollo Mission Control Center, restored to the way it looked back in the 1960s. It is open for tours but availability is limited, so ask about timed tickets when you arrive. We wrote about several SCH offerings in last week's story, and it's all leading up to the big Apollo 11 50th Live event, an all-day lunar celebration on July 20. VIP tickets are already sold out, so best bet is to make your reservations online to guarantee a spot.

Apollo 11 50th Live schedule:

  • 9:15 a.m., Opening ceremony with speakers and a parachute demonstration by The Golden Knights
  • 10-10:45 a.m., Panelists Richard Cucco, Jack Knight and William Reeves discuss lunar module development and operational issues
  • 11-11:45 a.m., Panelists Harold A. Loden, William Reeves and Robert Nance discuss lunar module landing operations
  • Noon-12:45 p.m., Panelists Wendel Mendel and Arthur L. Schmitt discuss lunar science operations
  • 1-1:45 p.m., Panelists John D. Holt, Milton J. Heflin and Terry Watson discuss command module landing and recovery operations
  • Throughout the day: A U.S. Army Apache helicopter and a robotics exhibit will be on display at Rocket Park.
  • Authors will be on hand to sign copies of their books: "Dutch" von Ehrenfried for Apollo Mission Control; The Making of a National Historic Landmark, and Rick Houston for Go Flight! The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control
  • 8 p.m., Outdoor concert featuring Walk The Moon and Phillip Phillips, family STEM zone with activities, food and drink vendors, and a 1960s-inspired beer garden
  • 9:56 p.m., Live interactive countdown to Neil Armstrong's first steps at 9:56 p.m. CT (similar to the Times Square ball drop)

Apollo 11 50th Live is scheduled for July 20 with events throughout the day and evening at Space Center Houston, 1601 Nasa Parkway. For information, call 281-244-2100 or visit spacecenter.org. $20 to $49.95.

Wax and Wane is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, beginning July 20.
Wax and Wane is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, beginning July 20.
© Photo by Cassandra C. Jones, courtesy of MFAH

In digging through its vaults, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston unearthed several gems that capture our fascination with the moon and outer space. We'll see images that date back to a 19th century portrait of a man in a solar-themed costume, documentary photographs and a recreation of Buzz Aldrin's first footprint on the moon. "Shooting the Moon: Photographs from the Museum’s Collection 50 Years after Apollo 11" also includes a projection of Cassandra C. Jones's Wax and Wane, a single-channel, stop-motion animation that traces the moon's monthly cycle utilizing images from Internet.

"Shooting the Moon: Photographs from the Museum’s Collection 50 Years after Apollo 11" is scheduled for July 20 through September 2 at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Audrey Jones Beck Building, 5601 Main. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. Free to $17.

The Kemah Boardwalk is getting a head start with its Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Celebration. Enjoy live music from the Lone Star Brass Band, a performance by Clutch and the Houston Rockets Power Dancers, a sunset screening of the film First Man, more live music from the David Joel Band and a 9:30 p.m. fireworks show. Nosh on Moon Pies and Dippin' Dots while the children have fun with crafting.

The celebration is scheduled for July 19 from 5-11 p.m. Friday at Kemah Boardwalk, 2155 Kipp Avenue, Kemah. For information, call 877-285-3624 or visit kemahboardwalk.com/featuring/firework-fridays. Free (there is a fee for parking).

Space buffs already look forward to the quarterly Sky Fest events, where explorers of all ages can look through telescopes and participate in activities, courtesy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute along with the JSC Astronomy society. But this time around it's extra special with the theme, Apollo 11: Looking Back to Move Forward. Guests will explore the moon in virtual realty, hear from scientists who are inspired by the moon, touch a moon rock, immerse themselves in a planetarium show and even take a picture against a moon backdrop (space suits not included). While visiting, check out LPI's digital library of panoramic photos and its collection of topographic, geologic and shaded relief maps and charts of the moon.

Sky Fest is scheduled for July 20 from 1-4 p.m. Saturday at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3600 Bay Area Boulevard. For information, call 281-486-2100 or visit lpi.usra.edu/education/skyfest. Free.                                                                              

All telescopes will be pointed toward planets and deep space objects when the George Observatory celebrates Apollo Day. The moon isn't always in alignment with our plans and this Saturday it will rise too late for viewing, but all Discovery Dome shows will be featuring the moon with shows every half hour. Celebrate the past, present and future landings on the moon with guest speakers, "stellar" activities, and tips from expert astronomers. Note that entry to Brazos Bend State Park ends at 9:30 p.m.

Apollo Day is scheduled for July 20 from 1-11 p.m. Saturday at George Observatory, Brazos Bend State Park, 21901 FM 762, Needville. For information, call 281-242-3055 or visit hmns.org. $7 to $10. Entrance fee to the park is $7 for adults and free for children under 12.

Take a grand tour of the moon with space exploration scientist Dr. David Kring.
Take a grand tour of the moon with space exploration scientist Dr. David Kring.
Photo by the Houston Museum of Natural Science

With a sculpture this detailed, it can do double duty as Exhibit A for the upcoming Lecture and Grand Tour of the Moon by Dr. David Kring. The space exploration scientist will point out geologic formations, asteroid impacts and historic landing sites on artist Luke Jerram's illuminated Museum of the Moon. Constructed at a scale of 1:500,000, the artist used as reference images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The evening wraps with a concert by WindSync, performing a piece by composer Marc Mellits that was commissioned to celebrate this 50th anniversary.

The lecture and concert are scheduled for July 20 at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, 555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit hmns.org. $40 to $55.

Break out your '60s era attire and head over to the Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake as it takes a trip down memory lane and pays homage to the race for space with its Apollo 50th Anniversary Lunar Landing Celebration. The Crossroads Refugees will play music of the era, there's a digital photo booth on site, and the 7:30 p.m. program includes recognition of Nassau Bay residents who took part in the Apollo programs, remarks by a VIP speaker, and a proclamation from the town's mayor. Whoever wins the Mad Men style costume contest will be declared winner then, at 8:56 p.m., everybody can view a video from the International Space Station followed by fireworks on the patio.

The celebration is scheduled for July 20 from 6 to 11:11 p.m. Saturday at Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake, 3000 NASA Parkway. For information, visit facebook.com/events/2293940217367685. $50 to $500.

Everybody's getting in on the action, and that includes House of Blues with APOLLO 50 ft. Mothership: Tribute to Led Zeppelin & Eclipse: Tribute to Journey. The San Antonio-based Mothership doesn't hold back, giving their Zeppelin tribute concerts an authentic feel with lasers, light and fog shows, and period instruments like the theremin and bow solos. Also hailing from San Antonio, Eclipse is known to open its concerts with "Separate Ways" and wrapping them up with "Don't Stop Believin'." We're not exactly sure how these bands are invoking Apollo themes, but you can't go wrong with the tunes.

A performance is scheduled for July 20 at 8 p.m. Saturday at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. For information, call 888-402-5837 or visit houseofblues.com/houston. $15 to $20.

Broadcasts and social media livestreams:

On July 18, the Houston Museum of Natural Science will livestream Fly Me to the Moon on their Facebook page. Mission Controllers from the Apollo missions will land their own grandchildren on the moon (in HMNS's Expedition Center), then they'll share their own real life memories from the historic Apollo 11 landing.

On July 20, from 10:30-11:30 a.m., teenage interns will debate whether our next space voyage should be to the moon or Mars, while children in the Houston Museum of Natural Science's Space Camp cast their votes live. Team Moon vs Team Mars — Future Astronauts Choose is presented in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History; catch it on HMNS's Facebook page.

Houston Public Media continues with its Summer of Space with a variety of space-themed shows and multi-platform experiences. Up next is 8 Days: To the Moon and Back, screening at 8 p.m. July 17 on TV 8.

Check back next week for part three in our series with information about A Giant Leap at Discovery Green, a Splashdown Party at Space Center Houston, a Dark Side of the Moon lecture at HMNS and much, much more.

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