JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — Space lovers of all ages came together Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
To kick off the event, visitors looked to the skies to see the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team skydive into Space Center Houston as the 1st Cavalry Division Band from Fort Hood played classic songs.
Thousands traveled from around the country to see the spectacle NASA had planned for the historic event.
“We traveled from Ohio to come celebrate the anniversary,” Namal Liyanange said. “My daughter loves space and is planning on becoming an astronaut.”
Children stormed the event, which included a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math zone where families could play with new technology and learn about the science of space.
Twins Ellison and Roy Carter, 4, walked around the tent in awe. It was their second time at the space center.
“Outer space is their favorite thing,” Emily Carter said. “They already know their planets and are ready to go to Mars.”
Sheila Chowdhury and Tania Ghani traveled from Dallas to bring their children and husbands to the day-long event.
“We’ve all been looking forward to this for a long time,” Ghani said. “Our husbands are in line for something somewhere around here.”
“My daughter has started to show an interest in going to Mars, so we had to come,” Chowdhury said.
While children and parents alike played in the STEM room, there were panels, presentations and book signings throughout the day.
NASA retirees Jack Knight, Bob Nance, Hal Loden and Bill Reeves spoke about the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle landing operations in a panel. Although they had different roles, the four men helped the Eagle descend and land on the moon, ascend back into orbit and return to Earth.
Although there were some technical difficulties on the descent to the moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took control of the module early and were able to maneuver away from a boulder field and craters to safely land the Eagle on to the surface.
They landed with 22 seconds of fuel remaining.
“I think it’s really important public understand how brave Neil and Buzz were,” Nance said. “This was the very first time anyone landed any spacecraft like this. If you want to applaud somebody, applaud Neil and Buzz.”
Henry Kyle III was 10 years old when he watched humankind land on the moon for the first time. The moment inspired him for the next 50 years.
“I will never forget what they did for our country and for our world,” Kyle said. “They absolutely changed everything for us and space travel even more important now.”
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” the famous quote by Neil Armstong, was the inspiration for the theme of the 50th anniversary, NASA’s next giant leap.
NASA, along with other international space programs, plans to get to the moon again and have the ability to stay there, then eventually get to Mars.
“If there is a chance for anyone to go to space, I’m going,” Kyle said. “I don’t care how old I am.”