one giant leap
10 out-of-this-world events to celebrate Apollo 11's 50th anniversary in Houston
"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” so spoke Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969, as he and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the moon. Fifty years later, if any place is going to throw a city-wide, ultimate (yet educational) party for when humans first reached the moon, it’s going to be Houston. In fact, some places (looking at you, Houston Museum of Natural Science) have been celebrating for months now.
If you're looking to take a giant leap into space history — and a summer trip to Houston — we've found the best cultural and scientific celebrations to launch you into lunar anniversary orbit.
Out-of-This-World Lunar Exhibitions at Houston Museum of Natural Science (ongoing)
The Houston Museum of Natural Science has been celebrating moon exploration since April, with the giant lunar sculpture Moon by Luke Jerram, a new Burke Baker Planetarium show, To Defy Gravity, and a virtual reality experience, Destination Moon. They’ve also recently added a new installation recreating the Sea of Tranquility, where the astronauts of Apollo 11 landed. And now showing in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre is the documentary Apollo 11: First Steps, showcasing never-before-seen 70mm footage and newly discovered audio recordings of the mission.
NASA Tram Tours featuring the Apollo Mission Control Center at Space Center Houston (ongoing)
Just in time for all the Apollo 11 celebrations, Space Center Houston has restored the Apollo Mission Control room, a national historic landmark. The room, used during the Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle eras, underwent restoration beginning in July 2017. Now reopened, guests will see the restored flight control consoles with their screens displaying data used during the Apollo 11 mission. The five large screens across the front of the room have been reactivated with projections to recreate the exact images seen during the Apollo 11 mission. This spectacular look into space history is included on the NASA Tram Tours and Level 9 VIP Tours.
Armstrongfilm screening at Space Center Houston (July 18)
For this Apollo anniversary, Space Center Houston has a special addition to their Space on Screen series, which gives film and space buffs the opportunity to see documentaries and classic space films in the center of the five-story-tall Space Center Theater, one of the largest 4K theaters in Texas. See this feature-length documentary profiling the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong. The film introduces us to the real dynamic man, not just the first-man-on-the-moon myth.
Shooting the Moon: Photographs from the Museum’s Collection 50 Years after Apollo 11 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (July 20-September 2)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has been collecting space art for about as long as the U.S has been launching humans into space, and so the Apollo 11 anniversary is the perfect time to ponder when imagination, art, history, and science meet. The exhibition features 40 photographs ranging from documentary images of NASA’s mission to the moon to Ansel Adams’s Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.
The Day We Walked on the Moon film screening and panel discussion at the Health Museum (July 20)
This new Smithsonian Channel documentary takes viewers inside to the scenes right into mission control and the spacecraft, thanks to remastered footage and interviews with those who were there. Following this special screening, the Health Museum will bring together a panel of experts to discuss space health and medicine. The Health, Moon and Beyond features Dr. David Hilmers, a former NASA astronaut and current professor in the internal medicine department at Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Robert Satcher, a former NASA astronaut and current oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center; Dr. Dorit Donoviel, director of TRISH at Baylor College of Medicine; and Dr. Jeffery Sutton, director of the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Apollo Day at the George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park (July 20)
What better way to remember the moon landing than getting a telescopic space view. If you’re looking to commune with nature and alligators as you celebrate humanity’s walk on the moon, head out to Fort Bend for a day filled with speakers and stellar activities, and stay for an evening putting eyes to the telescopes viewing planets and deep-space objects.
A Giant Leap at Discovery Green (July 20)
For the ultimate free moon party, go downtown to Discovery Green for a night featuring pretty much everything but the moon sink. See a paratrooper landing by the U.S. Army Golden Knights, the United States Army’s official aerial parachute demonstration team. Explore interactive exhibits from NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the Lone Star Flight Museum. Pick up the book American Moonshot and meet its author, Douglas Brinkley.
Shop for space haute couture at a special edition of Discovery Green’s Flea by Night. Stargaze with the Houston Astronomical Society, and watch a video message from astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station. And after all that, if you’re ready for space respite, find your place on the lawn for a free screening of the documentary Apollo 11.
Apollo 11 50th Live at Space Center Houston (July 20)
The all-day celebration honoring the past, present, and future of space exploration will feature space-themed activities for the whole family, including NASA Tram Tours to Rocket Park and the Apollo Mission Control Center, speakers, book signings, an outdoor festival, and family STEM zone. The celebration reaches the stratosphere with an evening concert featuring performances by Walk the Moon and Phillip Phillips.
Apollo Night at Minute Maid Park (July 22)
Keep the celebration going as the Houston Astros host an astro-naut themed night. Look to Center Field at the Budweiser Brew House for a replica statue of Neil Armstrong's 1969 spacesuit from the Apollo 11 Mission. Neil’s son Rick Armstrong throws the ceremonial first pitch. And space and Astro fans can explore the NASA Mobile Exhibit and Space Exploration Vehicle during the evening.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Mixed Media Space City Party (August 2)
The MFAH summer Mixed Media night, always filled with drinks, dancing, and the best party music, gets a “Space City” makeover. The late-night spectacular brings a special appearance by Bun B with Doc Loc and the Swangers, along with sets by DJ Sun (Soular Productions) and Kay Illah, and exclusive access into the Shooting the Moon and the Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors exhibitions.