Celebration of Space - July 19, 2019

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) at Tranquility Base on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) at Tranquility Base on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.

Though at Frosty Drew Observatory, we are celebrating the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Anniversary tonight, the actual anniversary date is tomorrow, Saturday, July 20th. This was the day that humans first stood on another world! The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (the Eagle) touched down at Tranquility Base in Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility) at 4:17 pm EDT on July 20, 1969. The entire extravehicular activity (EVA), when the astronauts departed the Lunar Module for the lunar surface, lasted just under 2 hours and 32 minutes and began at 10:39 pm EDT. During which time, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin collected 47 pounds of lunar samples, setup live broadcast television equipment, the US flag, deployed the Solar Wind Composition Experiment, the Laser Ranging Retroreflector, Passive Seismic Experiment, and the Lunar Dust Detector experiments; all while capturing fabulous photographs of the lunar surface at Tranquility Base. The entire EVA took place within 100 meters of the Lunar Module. The EVA ended at 1:11 am EDT on July 21, 1969.

In celebration of this historic journey and milestone in human history, NASA is in full out Apollo mission mode! Check out fabulous panoramic images of the Apollo mission landing sites, assembled by NASA data scientists to commemorate the anniversary. Then stop over at NASA TV and check out their schedule, which is packed with Apollo goodness all week long. If that is just not geek enough for you, then take a stop over at NASA’s special Apollo 50th page for videos, photos, and audio excerpts from the missions. During all this awesomeness, be sure to take a moment to think about how amazing this landing actually was; as it applies to human curiosity, determination, and potential; and take solace that even though there are terrible things that many humans do, it is the amazing things we accomplish and our unrelenting passion for pushing the limits that defines us.

So the Apollo 11 landing, and Neil Armstrong. We all know the story and seen the pics. But are we actually seeing what we think we are seeing in the photos? Now I’m not talking about lunar landing hoaxes and all that garbage, of course we landed on the Moon, and a general misunderstanding of inertia among those that do not believe, is not evidence of a hoax. What I’m talking about is the boot print on the lunar surface and who is actually in the photos. Most of the photography at Tranquility Base was captured by Neil Armstrong. Nearly all quality images of astronauts on the lunar surface are photos of Buzz Aldrin, including the boot print photo, which is not the first footprint, but instead is Buzz Aldrin’s boot print in the lunar regolith (powdery material covering the rocky lunar surface). During the Apollo 11 EVA, Neil Armstrong had the primary camera. Buzz Aldrin also had a camera, but was tasked with photographing specific details of a technical nature. This resulted in most photos showing Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. Interestingly, there are more pictures of Neil Armstrong’s butt than of his face during the EVA. This in no way takes away from the level of sheer awesome that this EVA was, but it is a fun fact and a slight perspective changer.

Tomorrow night, in celebration of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing 50th Anniversary, Waterfire will host a full lighting themed on the lunar landing. For those who are unfamiliar with Waterfire, this is an event where braziers placed along the three rivers of Providence, RI are set ablaze. There is fabulous music, food trucks, vendors, performers, and fantastic presentations / displays set up all along the river; and of course the ambient surrealism of the smoke. Along river walk, from College Street, all the way to the Basin, numerous universities and science organizations will be hosting presentations. Stop in at Market Square and catch Brown University and the RI Sidewalk Astronomers with telescopes setup on Jupiter and Saturn. The festivities start at sunset, and they will be awesome. So make this a weekend of Lunar Landing celebrations in RI with nights of stars, planets, smoke and science.

Save the Date:
Celebrate the Milky Way event at Frosty Drew Observatory
On Saturday, July 27, 2019, Frosty Drew Observatory will open at sunset to celebrate, what we think, is the best Saturday in July to see the fabulous Milky Way visible over Frosty Drew Observatory. This is the night that we direct our telescopes towards the galaxy and observe dozens of the most amazing sights in the galaxy that we are part of. So put a little amazement on your calendar and become acquainted with that mind-blowing view that has inspired explorers through the history of our species.


Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Jul 19, 2019
Published Under:
Scott MacNeill's Columns
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