It was one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.
In celebration of the historic event, the Montauk Observatory—a publicly supported nonprofit dedicated to fostering interest in science—and Stony Brook University are partnering to present a 50th anniversary celebration.
The free, public program will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, at the Avram Theater at the Stony Brook Southampton college campus in Shinnecock Hills, as a handful of people responsible for the first moon landing and employees of NASA speak about their experiences.
The event also will include a screening of Todd Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11,” followed by a question-and-answer session with Ben Feist, the documentary’s production team manager and a NASA space flight data manager researcher, who will also lecture at Saturday’s event. Mr. Feist will describe his work with NASA and answer questions about the film, which shows never-before-screened footage of the 1969 moon landing.
“The director only worked with historical material,” Mr. Feist stressed in a phone interview last week, noting that making the movie was a process that required matching historical audio and silent footage—with no modern narration, voice-overs or interviews.
“It hadn’t been looked at in 50 years. The archive didn’t have the equipment to play the footage,” said Mr. Feist, who will talk a bit about what it took to restore 11,000 hours of mission control audio and bring the silent mission control footage back to life.
A roundtable discussion will feature a number of what were originally about 412,000 people who worked on the Apollo program on projects that ranged from perfecting the space suits to crafting tools and machinery at Grumman Aerospace on Long Island.
“Working on making that happen was like a war effort,” he said of sending the first men to the moon.
The Grumman roundtable panel includes Raymond LeCann, a former Grumman vice president and director of the lunar module data reduction system, who made sure all the equipment worked before sending the astronauts into space; and Joseph Bevilacqua, a design engineer in the LEM crew and equipment integration division, who met with the astronauts, and who is a former president of the Grumman Retiree Club.
Other panelists are Leon Gurinksy, a rocket scientist who worked on the LEM propulsion systems; Anthony Mascolo, the cockpit design leader, who was responsible for fireproofing the cockpit and suits; and Edgar Whitman, an engineer who worked on communications between the LEM and the command service module.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. will award each panel member a New York State citation in appreciation of their contribution to the space program.
Stony Brook University and the Montauk Observatory will open the floor for a lecture by Stony Brook University Professor Timothy Glotch, titled “50 Years of Lunar Science,” which will talk about what scientists learned from and since the Apollo missions.
The Stony Brook University Department of Geo-Science has a long history of being involved in lunar science and the history of the moon, Mr. Glotch said, and his lecture will focus on what the science community has learned from Apollo 11, samples the astronauts brought back, and more from recent orbits in outer space.
Since the Apollo days, which ended in 1972, NASA has sent a number of spacecraft into orbit, and to the moon, and several hundred kilograms of moon rock have been brought back to earth, with a select few in vacuum-packed storage. Through those samples—some of which Mr. Glotch has personally analyzed at his lab at Stony Brook—scientists can learn about the history of the moon and apply radiometric age dating, which has indicated that the moon is somewhere around 4.6 billion years old.
It is believed that the moon formed when something about the size of Mars struck Earth, generating heat and energy and causing material to spin off and form the moon, Mr. Glotch said, adding that there is still “a whole lot of moon that we have yet to explore.”
“I’m excited for the whole event,” Mr. Glotch said. “For folks who haven’t seen the movie, it’s amazing. I saw it on IMAX with my kids. … My 8-year-old son asked who the bad guy was, and I said, ‘Gravity,’” he laughed.
“While it’s unfortunate that it’s been 50 years since we’ve had a lunar landing, the Apollo missions taught us so very much and paved the way for subsequent study of the moon,” the executive director of the Montauk Observatory, Donna McCormick, said last week. “I’m sure we can soon look forward to another manned lunar landing, as well as use of the moon as a gateway to the further exploration of space.”
Mr. Feist explained that NASA hopes to send the first woman to the moon by 2024, in the Artemis program, and once that goal is met, NASA plans to explore the possibilities of living and staying on the moon for more than three days at a time.
“It’s an ambitious plan,” Mr. Glotch said. “I’m glad to see a strong focus on returning to the moon.”
Ben Feist’s website, ApolloInRealTime.org, will show the Apollo 11 mission in real time, video and audio, as it happened 50 years ago on July 20.
Tickets to Saturday’s free event at Stony Brook Southampton are available at apollo11event.eventbrite.com.