Fifty years ago this week, two American astronauts—Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin—took the first-ever steps on the surface of the Moon. This monumental achievement capped more than a decade of frenzied activity marked by stunning accomplishments, from America’s first space flight—a 15-minute pop-up in 1961—and the first trip around the Moon on Christmas Eve in 1968, as well as major setbacks like the launch-rehearsal fire that killed all three Apollo 1 astronauts in 1967.
On July 20, 1969, all the challenges culminated in one of humanity’s greatest feats: Armstrong’s first steps on the dusty lunar surface and his unforgettable words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The achievement, which was broadcast live around the globe, was watched by an estimated 600 million people.
Colorado played a key role in Project Apollo and NASA’s other space programs. The rocket that launched Armstrong, Aldrin, and command module pilot Michael Collins into space was built at Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Canyon “Rocket Ranch” facility. Astronaut Scott Carpenter, a Boulder native and University of Colorado alum, was the second American to orbit the Earth. And DIA’s unconventional roof is built from polytetrafluoroethylene—a material more commonly called Teflon—that was invented to protect the astronauts’ suits from abrasive dust encountered during the lunar landings.
This week, take a voyage to one of the many local events being held across the Front Range to commemorate this historic anniversary.
From July 13–20, the museum is hosting Apollopalooza, a week-long celebration of all things Apollo. Events include presentations by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Apollo 11 flight director Gene Kranz, an Apollo 11 movie screening, and a 1969-themed “viewing” party on Saturday evening, where attendees can watch the lunar landing 50 years later to the minute (at 8:56 p.m. MT). 7711 E. Academy Blvd.
On Saturday evening, the Colorado Symphony will present an “out of this world” anniversary concert that blends John Williams’ scores from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., and Star Wars with contemporary music from American composers Mason Bates and James Beckel. The concert will be accompanied by archival NASA footage of the moon landing. Boettcher Concert Hall, 1000 14th St.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is going all in on its celebration of the first moonwalk. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the museum is hosting a family-friendly First Steps Celebration in the Space Odyssey exhibition, which will include special presentations and activities. On Thursday, the Science Lounge will feature an adults-only Moon Mayhem event, with cocktails, small bites, and a chance to catch the planetarium show, Imagine the Moon. Speaking of the planetarium, DMNS is also featuring several space-related shows throughout the month, as well screenings of the Apollo 11: First Steps. 2001 Colorado Blvd.
The month-long Apollo 11 celebration at the University of Colorado Boulder’s planetarium includes five space-themed shows and special science lectures happening throughout the week, as well as a full day of family-friendly activities on Saturday—think educational talks, musical performances, and more—all culminating in a 7:30 p.m. lunar landing celebration. 2414 Regent Dr., Boulder
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., budding astronauts will “take over” the museum for a series of out-of-this-world activities, including learning what makes rockets blast off and how craters form. Can’t make it on Saturday? Swing by any day this month to catch a variety of films celebrating the moon landing anniversary, including Dynamic Earth, CAPCOM GO! The Apollo Story, and more. 1209 N. College Ave., Fort Collins
In conjunction with the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, the Space Foundation Discovery Center is holding an Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday. The event will include activities for the entire family, such as presentations by Astronaut Duane “Digger” Carey, who in 2002 piloted the space shuttle Columbia; virtual reality moonwalks; space face painting; and an unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s new First Moon Landing stamp. 4425 Arrowswest Dr., Colorado Springs
Kids of all ages can learn about the first lunar landing with fun Earth and space exploration activities, ranging from building pocket solar systems to launching paper rockets. Events take place every day from 11 a.m. to noon. 110 N. Harrison Ave., Lafayette