CLUTE — With telescopes in position outside, cosmic artwork of astronauts displayed on the walls and a NASA veteran speaking about the technical side of space travel, the Center for the Arts and Sciences had a variety of activities Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

The Apollo 11 mission took astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins from Earth to the moon, two of whom landed and walked on the surface before returning safely to Earth, fulfilling a lofty goal set by President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address less than a decade earlier. A significant event of the 20th century, it has been the subject of countless books, film adaptations and TV shows.

Guests were able to meet James Bates, a 42-year NASA veteran who worked on the Project Mercury, Project Gemini, Project Apollo and the Space Shuttle programs.

The Apollo 11 landing has been especially influential because it was the first time a man set foot on the moon, Bates said.

Bates spoke to the public about his work with NASA, specifically how he helped created math models of the radiation hazards astronauts faced outside the Earth’s geomagnetic field in outer space, he said.

“I was there from the very beginning,” he said. “I can go back and remember a lot of stuff. This was the first time we had people outside the Earth’s magnetic field. We were prone to the threat of solar storms.”

It was a tough, complicated mission to get a man to the moon, and it could have gone very differently, Bates said.

“I just want to tell you guys how close it was,” he said.

He still remembers meeting with Neil Armstrong years after the Apollo 11 landing, recalling the icon’s humbleness, Bates said.

“He was just the same common person he always was,” he said.

Throughout the night, short films played every 15 minutes at the BASF Planetarium, accompanied by a transmission from the International Space Station at 8 p.m. and a short film about the first moon landing provided by Space Center Houston.

The Brazosport Museum of Natural Science also had entertainment for children, and the Brazosport Art League presented art featuring moon-related imagery.

Tables were set up where the public could learn the different phases of the moon and get insight into how the moon rotates in space.

He was helping show families how the moon operates, Master Naturalist volunteer Chris Kneupper said.

“We have a little game, a little activity for them to learn,” he said.

There is still such a fascination with this event and he clearly recalls how the entire world’s eyes were fixated on TVs, Kneupper said.

“I remember watching it on a grainy TV, sitting around with my family for hours that day and into the evening,” he said.

With crowds walking through the Center, particular children, Planetarium Director Judi James said she hopes to educate them more about the moon and how things up in the sky exactly work.

“We are hoping they learn something new about the moon,” she said. “That they learn how it works.”

Connor Behrens is a reporter at The Facts. You can contact him at 979-237-0150.

Features Writer/Reporter for The Facts in Clute, Texas. I'm a communications graduate from the University of Houston. I have written for publications such as the Washington Post and the Galveston County Daily News.

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