New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

Moon Fiesta: Celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

July 11, 2019


July 20th marks the 50th anniversary of NASA’S historic Apollo 11 Moon landing with a collaboration titled the Moon Fiesta. The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs is commemorating the Apollo Moon landing with Moon Fiesta events at these facilities: the New Mexico History Museum (NMHM) in Santa Fe, as well as The Screen, presented by the Center for Contemporary Arts; the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science (NMMNHS); The New Mexico State Libraries; and National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) in Albuquerque; and the New Mexico Museum of Space History (NMMSH) in Alamogordo, which has devoted extensive programming to the Apollo Moon Landing, beginning in January of this anniversary year.

“Our Department of Cultural Affairs has engineered a summer full of incredibly informative and fun events across all different media and across the state,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “This was a seminal moment in our nation’s history. All through this anniversary season, New Mexicans will have every opportunity to relive it, learn about it for the first time and dive into the memory of humankind’s first steps on the moon.”

More than 400,000 people were involved in one capacity or another in the Apollo 11 mission to the moon on July 20, 1969. The collaborative effort marked the advancement not only in space exploration but in mathematics, sciences, and technology. More than 600 million people around the globe watched as the Apollo 11 team took humankind’s first steps on the moon and in the wake of these steps came expeditions into space, both manned and machine-operated.

Apollo Events at NM History Museum in Santa Fe

In Santa Fe, July 16 through October 20, the NMHM hosts “A Walk on the Moon: The 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing.” Be a part of the worldwide celebration of our nation’s space history and learn about the role New Mexico played in it. On display will be the Mercury Space Capsule 12B, created as a backup for the Mercury missions and on loan from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. The capsule illustrates the preceding one-manned exploration missions that laid the groundwork for the Apollo 11 8-day mission and the first moon landing.

On Friday, July 19 from 7-9 p.m. NMHM hosts a free auditorium lecture event, The Past, and Future of Manned Space Exploration with Rick Wallace, Ph.D. Dr. Wallace will discuss early space exploration, the Apollo moon landing missions, as well as current and future manned space exploration efforts. NASA videos will provide a feeling of what it is like to live in space, take a shower and eat dinner on spacecraft, as well as work aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He will also discuss the plans of private companies interested in establishing bases on the moon and Mars and the prospect of mining asteroids for natural resources that are becoming scarce on Earth. Additionally, the audience can view a variety of scaled model rockets on display for the talk.

Rick Wallace has a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from U.C. Santa Cruz (Lick Observatory), with a concentration in numerical calculations of stellar explosions (Novae, Supernovae, Gamma Ray Bursts), and nuclear fusion. He is currently one of the astronomers who develops and presents presentations for the Los Alamos Nature Center Planetarium and is President of the Board of Directors for the Pajarito Environmental Education Center, which runs the Los Alamos Nature Center. He retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory after 30 years, where he worked on physics simulations, security of Russian nuclear material after the fall of the USSR, and international safeguards. He is currently involved in nature photography, STEM and astronomy education.

Dr. Richard Wallace’s multimedia lecture, "The Past and Future of Manned Space Exploration" addresses what expeditions to space look like fifty years later. Audiences will enjoy a compendium of NASA video footage detailing the Apollo mission as well as daily life in space. The footage highlights unique experiences such as taking a shower, eating on a spacecraft, and working aboard the International Space Station (ISS) before the discussion moves to the future of manned space expeditions. Dr. Wallace will present to-scale model rockets and consider private company plans to establish bases on Mars, as well as the idea of mining natural resources from space to replenish Earth’s depleting stores.

 Apollo Events at NM Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science commemorates the landmark anniversary with a new Apollo 11 exhibit, lectures, moon-related activities, and documentaries. The exhibit will include panels illustrating the story of Apollo 11, from the original dream to the science returned by the astronauts (courtesy of Audio Visual Imagineering). The museum will display a variety of Apollo 11 popular memorabilia, official NASA science publications, and lunar maps that were used to plan the Apollo landings. The new exhibit will be open to the public on July 20.

“New Mexico has played a big role in the space race and in space exploration,” said Margie Marino, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science (NMMNHS) Executive Director. “This new exhibition celebrates that unparalleled achievement made half a century ago of putting a human being on the lunar surface.”

The NMMNHS will also hold a lecture from award-winning New Mexico space science writer Loretta Hall on July 18 in the Museum Dyna Theater beginning at 6:30 p.m. Hall is the author of Out of this World: New Mexico’s Contributions to Space Travel, Space Pioneers: In Their Own Words, and The Complete Space Buff’s Bucket List. Apollo 11 was half-way to the Moon on July 18 in 1969, and Hall’s talk will immerse the lecture attendees in the experience of the very first human mission to another body in our Solar System. Cost $8, $7 museum members, & $5 students. Preregistration is encouraged or tickets can be purchased at the door the evening of the event if seats are available. Go to For more information about this event contact:             

On the July 20 anniversary date of the first moon landing, the museum will present a showing of a Smithsonian Channel documentary, The Day We Walked on the Moon. This program tells the story of how we got to the moon through spectacular footage and interviews with key figures in the Apollo 11 mission, including astronaut Michael Collins and iconic Flight Director Gene Kranz. The video will start at 10 a.m. in the STEM Lecture Hall and run continuously through most of the day along with moon-related table activities. This advanced screening is possible due to the Museum’s Smithsonian Affiliation.

NMMNHS will host a public meeting of The Albuquerque Astronomical Society in the planetarium on the evening of the 20th with doors reopening at 5:30 p.m. At 7 p.m., a local resident who worked on space technologies will share memories of early space flight. Jim Mayo collaborated with NASA astronauts to develop optics for the Gemini and Apollo programs and is currently Chief Optics Engineer at Tau Technologies. The anniversary celebration will conclude with light refreshments.

At the end of July, the NMMNHS will receive special Moon products temporarily on loan from Johnson Spaceflight Center and Goddard Spaceflight Center. Museum visitors will be able to "walk on the Moon" on a 60 foot by 40-foot lunar floor map. These one-of-a-kind lunar products will be on temporary display for special events at the Museum in late July.

The NMMNHS Planetarium is showing CAPCOM Go!  This new planetarium show from NSC Creative is shown daily at 4 p.m. and provides an enjoyable look at the history, context, and achievements of NASA’s Apollo Program.

Apollo Events at the National Hispanic Cultural Center

The National Hispanic Cultural Center participates in the Moon Fiesta with an event at the History & Literary Arts Library. July 16 through 24, Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., NHCC hosts, “Imagining the Moon: Books for Children and Adults in the NHCC Library”

On Saturday, July 20, from 1-5 p.m. drop by the library of the National Hispanic Cultural Center to read books that imagine the moon. We have books for all ages, including a collection of bilingual children’s books.  Curl up in a comfy chair and take a trip to the moon.

Apollo Events at the New Mexico State Library

The New Mexico State Library has announced this year’s statewide Summer Reading theme, A Universe of Stories, to tie into the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Public libraries around the state will be offering space-themed programs as well as offering incentives encouraging children, teens and adults to read all summer long.

Participating in a summer reading program has been proven to help students prevent the “summer slide” which is a significant drop in test scores between school years. Last year, over 94,000 people participated in a summer reading program in New Mexico.

This year, ten public libraries will also host a Space History Museum program, sponsored by the New Mexico State Library.  The Museum will give presentations on different aspects of space, as well as bring examples of space artifacts and even a space suit! Other programs at libraries this year will be presented by Natural History & Science Museum, the Space Spectrum, Explora Science Center, the Albuquerque Astronomical Society, The Wonders on Wheels mobile museum exhibit, and many more!

Check your local public library for a full list of activities happening all summer long!  This summer and every summer, sponsorship of the Collaborative Summer Library Program comes from the New Mexico State Library, along with promotional and program support.  This program is funded in part with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) administered by the New Mexico State Library, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. 


Apollo Events at NM Museum of Space History in Alamogordo

At the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, the celebration of Apollo has been a year-long event. From Launch Pad Lectures and Apollo themed summer camp classes, to manned space flight exhibits and the new giant screen film Apollo 11, the sky is not the limit at the Museum of Space History!

Each month, the Museum hosts a free first Friday Launch Pad Lecture. Four of this year’s programs have focused on Apollo to date, with three more on the way. On September 9, Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll will present The Cape:  The History of Cape Canaveral. Museum Outreach Coordinator Tony Gondola will be the speaker on November 1 and his topic will be Best Camping Trip Ever:  The Flight of Apollo 12. Then, on December 6, a former Otero County resident will be featured as Museum Education Specialist Michael Shinabery presents The Voice of NASA:  Paul Haney. Haney lived in High Rolls, New Mexico, for many years on a cherry orchard and was a valued member of the community.

Throughout the summer, museum educators are visiting rural communities statewide giving Apollo presentations at State Libraries. From Questa to Glenwood, Silver City to Lovington, and many places in between, people in fourteen different communities will learn about the Apollo program and the significant role New Mexico had to play in it.

Apollo 11 lifted off the launch pad on July 16, 1969, and to celebrate the museum is partnering with the Fellowship of Las Cruces Model Rocket Enthusiasts (FLARE) for a launch re-enactment and mass model rocket launch. The mass launch is in conjunction the US Space and Rocket Center’s attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for the largest simultaneous launch of rockets at the exact time of the Apollo 11 launch (9:32 am) in every time zone worldwide.

In honor of the July 20 anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic moon landing, the museum has several activities planned as part of One Giant Leap – Celebrating Apollo 11, including a new manned spaceflight gallery opening, a free day at the museum and New Horizons Dome Theater, and a day full of activities for kids of all ages. The museum’s education department will offer several hands on activities and hourly trash can launches beginning at 9:00 am. A Saturn V model rocket launch blasts off at 9:15 am in the upper parking lot featuring a scale model of Apollo 11 and its launch tower. Up next is a model rocket competition that’s open to public participation, visitors are encouraged to bring their own rockets and engines for the Precision Duration Lunar Spot Landing Competition. A twenty foot diameter lunar surface will be the landing zone and the winner will be the contestant who lands on it. If no one lands on the moon, then the contestant with a flight duration closest to 27 seconds will take home the prize.

The museum’s new spaceflight gallery will open that day as well featuring moon rocks from Apollo 11 and Apollo 17, an Apollo-era mission control panel, an Apollo Primary Guidance & Navigation System that flew on Apollo 13, 14, 15, 16, and 1, along with Skylab 1, 2, and 3 (one of only two complete units still in existence), along with several other related pieces of hardware, software and spacesuits.

In addition to the variety of activities taking place inside and outside the museum that day, the New Horizons Dome Theater will be showing Apollo 11: First Steps hourly starting at 10:00 am. That evening at 7:00 pm, Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll will hosts the inspirational film The Wonder of it All, which focuses on the rarely told human side of the astronauts and their families.

With the Space Museum as the featured institution for the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Wonder on Wheels (WoW) van this summer, many opportunities to reach out to the state and beyond have presented themselves. The WoW van travels to rural areas in the state without access to a state museum, and on July 19, it will take a trip to El Paso, Texas, where it will be a centerpiece for UTEP’s Apollo celebration.

The next day, the WoW van will show off its “Galaxy of Wonders” exhibit during the museum’s event, and on July 21 it will be showcased at the White Sands Mall in Alamogordo. The mall and the museum have worked together to create a “space” themed exhibit inside the mall that includes the “Eyes on Earth” traveling exhibit, three 20’ x 8’ lunar murals, and a 1/3 scale restored Lunar Module (LM).

Related Photos

APOLLO 11 Buzz Aldrin NASA Photo

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