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Queens Chronicle

NYSCI celebrates 50 years since moon landing

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:31 pm, Thu Jun 13, 2019.

Eight years after President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sat atop a Saturn V rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla., carrying, as Walter Cronkite put it, “the hopes and burdens for all mankind.”

The trick was not just to get them to the moon, but to bring them home.

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon, and the New York Hall of Science is celebrating the event through Jan. 21 with daily showings of “Apollo 11: First Steps,” a 20-plus-minute adaptation from director Todd Douglas Miller’s feature-length film that includes never-before-seen footage and audio from the launch site, Mission Control in Houston, and from the moon itself.

Tania Tiburcio, vice president of audience and business development at NYSCI, said the film was a natural choice for the museum’s leadership, something they wanted to bring to the public’s attention.

“We’re always looking for new ways to create interest in science, technology, engineering and math with our exhibits and presentations,” Tiburcio told the Chronicle in a telephone interview. “We want to make it relevant to our guests and stretch their imaginations. This film is doing just that.

“We timed it for the 50th anniversary of the mission. We’re celebrating with the rest of the country this incredible achievement.”

Tiburcio came across her first reference to the project last year while the movie was still in production, and reached out to Miller, who agreed to keep her in the loop as he finished it and sought a distributor.

The film is as engrossing as the original television coverage, opening mere minutes before liftoff for what would be a five-day trip to our closest celestial neighbor.

Mission control is manned by hundreds of technicians at rows and rows and rows of computer screens. Though almost everything has been done before in test flights, including a manned “dress rehearsal” with Apollo 10 orbiting the moon months earlier, the tension is palpable as they check, double-check and triple-check all systems for the launch, the rocket communications and the capsule one last time.

On-board cameras record the separation of spent rocket stages and reports from the crew on speed and altitude before reaching orbit.

Then it’s off to the moon, with a brief docking maneuver necessary for Armstrong and Aldrin to enter the lunar module for a powered descent.

They find just the right spot before Armstrong takes his “giant leap for mankind” into the history books.

Then there was the mundane task of collecting rocks and soil that are being studied to this day; the splashdown in the Pacific Ocean and a heroes’ welcome on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.

“I had goosebumps,” Tiburcio said. “It was an experience that brought me back in time. I felt like it was happening for the first time. We’re hoping it’s an exciting experience, especially for young children who haven’t seen it. We want people to see what we’ve achieved, and get them excited about what’s next in space exploration and space travel.”

Count among them Judah Baron-Sims, 5, of Brooklyn who saw the movie last Saturday with his dad, Blair Sims.

“I liked when they landed on the moon,” Judah said. “I liked the numbers.”

He may have the makings of an aerospace engineer in him. The latter referred to graphics on screen in an in-house NASA video linked to external cameras as Aldrin and Armstrong prepared to land. The dual displays showed simultaneously how high they were above the lunar surface, a number synched uncomfortably closely with the remaining fuel they had to do so safely.

NASA engineers appeared to have calculated the timing to the second.

Judah flashed a huge smile when asked if he liked the movie and if he thinks people should go to see it.

“Aha!” he said, nodding in the affirmative.

‘Apollo 11: First Steps’
 
When: 2 p.m. daily through June 14; 3 p.m. daily June 15-Jan. 21
Where: New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111 St., Corona
Entry: $6 plus admission: $16; $5 plus $13 seniors, students, kids 2-17.
(718) 699-0005, nysci.org

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