It’s hard to believe that this year will mark the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the Moon. It’s harder to believe that I still remember when it happened, even though I was a small boy at the time.
I remember my Dad making me watch the grainy image on our black and white TV of Neil Armstrong stepping off the Eagle on to the Moon’s surface and telling me that I should remember this day because it was very historic. It must have stuck, because I still do.
I was reminded of that time by a press release that rolled through my inbox from Flagstaff, Arizona. The desert town played a role in that great Apollo exploration in a variety of ways and they are celebrating it with 18 months of events.
When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon on July 20, 1969, followed by 11 astronauts over the next three years, it was made possible through years of preparation in northern Arizona, including astronaut science training, instrument development and lunar mapping.
According to the press release, Flagstaff’s lunar milestones include the following:
- Every one of the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon, from Neil Armstrong to Gene Cernan, prepared for their journeys in northern Arizona.
- Artists worked with scientists at Lowell Observatory to create detailed lunar topographic maps, while cartographers at the USGS Flagstaff Science Campus developed geological maps of the Moon.
- USGS Flagstaff Science Campus scientists taught astronauts geological principles and techniques at Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater, and the cinder fields that blanket northern Arizona.
- Astronauts studied the Moon through telescopes at Lowell Observatory, Northern Arizona University, and the US Naval Observatory. In addition, the Museum of Northern Arizona supplied office space.
- Using explosives, scientists created a simulated lunar surface in the cinder field near Sunset Crater, complete with a network of craters modeled after authentic Moon craters for training astronauts and testing several lunar rover vehicle simulators (moon buggies) in the surrounding volcanic features.
- For decades Flagstaff has and continues to be an epicenter for space science studies.
I visited Flagstaff years ago with my wife on a Babymoon in a time before the word was even coined. We were on a Route 66 pilgrimage and we spent some time in Flagstaff and were charmed by the scenic town. It’s actually the world’s first International Dark Sky City and is home to Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered. We visited the observatory and found it an interesting stop.
As a weird aside, our son who my wife was carrying at the time, was fascinated with Pluto as a child so I don’t know what kind of cosmic coincidence that is.
Lift-off event for Flagstaff’s celebrations launches July 20, 2018 in downtown Flagstaff at the Orpheum Theater and events to mark the occasion will continue through 2019, including exhibits, lectures, book signings, demonstrations, lunar photography, guided hikes, entertainment, and restaurants and bars offering moon-themed dishes and drinks. You can find a calendar of events at www.flagstaffarizona.org/lunarlegacy.