July 20, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned mission to the Moon. Well before Neil Armstrong made his giant leap on that day, he and his fellow space travelers took a whole slew of small steps right here in Northern Arizona, where they honed their scientific skills at a variety of locations in the area. Local scientists not only led these training efforts, but also developed instruments specially designed for use on the lunar surface and created detailed maps of the Moon.
To celebrate this golden anniversary of one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments, and Flagstaff’s role in making it happen, representatives from a variety of local organizations have planned an 18-month-long celebration, called Flagstaff AZ Lunar Legacy.
Lunar Legacy runs from July 20 of this year through the end of 2019. Some 85 events are currently planned, with more on the horizon. A variety of local organizations will host activities, some that run for the duration of Lunar Legacy and others that are limited to a single day or evening.
Both Flagstaff public libraries, Coconino Community College, Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library, Lowell Observatory and Pulliam Airport are among localities hosting special Moon-themed exhibits. Meanwhile, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Meteor Crater, and Lowell Observatory are some of the sites hosting guided hikes and interpretive programs about the astronaut training and other aspects of lunar efforts. A space-themed movie series will play at Meteor Crater, Movies on the Square, the Orpheum Theatre and other venues, while telescope viewing events will be centered at Lowell Observatory, Meteor Crater, NAU, Sunset Crater National Monument and Walker Observatory at DeMiguel Elementary School. Many of these locations, as well as the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, will also host open houses.
Monthly activities include observing at DeMiguel’s Walker Observatory and the Flagstaff Festival of Science hosting a Lunar Lecture Series at Coconino Community College’s Lone Tree Campus.
While Lunar Legacy is a celebration of Flagstaff’s scientific role in helping prepare for the manned Moon missions, and many of the activities center around this aspect, local businesses are also getting into the act. Diablo Burger, for instance, will cook up Lunar Burgers, the Sweet Shop will offer Dark Side of the Moon treats, Late for the Train will serve Lunar Latte, and Karma Sushi will create a Giant Leap Roll. Starlight Lanes, embracing its connection to space by virtue of its name, will offer special bowling packages.
Meanwhile, local artists are also involved. Josh Meyers, for instance, has created crescent Moon bottle openers, while glass blower George Averbeck is producing Moon ornaments.
While Lunar Legacy is driven by the historical Apollo-era work carried out in Northern Arizona, it also will serve as a tool for celebrating Flagstaff’s current efforts to not only study the cosmos, but also help prepare for future space missions. For example, in the late 1960s, scientists detonated explosives on Black Mesa, located on Babbitt Ranches. While the resulting site was never used for training, a later generation of astronauts, part of the Desert Research and Technology Studies, or Desert RATS program, traveled to the site in 2008 for training.
The Lunar Legacy campaign kicks off with a free event at 5:30 p.m., Friday, July 20, at the Orpheum Theater with presentations from historians, NASA and USGS video clips from the ‘60s, and live music. Information about this and other Lunar Legacy events, as well as historical information, images and more, may be seen at flagstaffarizona.org/lunarlegacy/. FBN
By Kevin Schindler, FBN