Crowds relive Apollo moon landing at Cranbrook 50th anniversary event

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Bloomfield Hills — Metro Detroiters took a giant leap into the past on Saturday, learning what went into the mission that put the first man on the moon. 

Crowds spent the afternoon at the Cranbrook Institute of Science celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with movies, activities and talking with astronomers.

Guests toured the Cranbrook observatory looking up towards a bloody sun during the 98-degree day. 

"It looked really cool, like a big red ball," said 12-year-old Conner, who attended with Huy Vu. 

David Papa hold his daughter Jessica, 5, as she views the sun through a specialized telescope at the Cranbrook Institute of Science for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing at the Bloomfield Hills campus on Saturday.

"It's really exciting to see this 50 years later and look back on what went into it," said Vu, from Canton. "We're into amateur stuff, just looking through a telescope when it's a full moon, so this is fun to see on a big scale."

Members of the Warren Astronomical Society scattered around the Institute talking space science and the mission with more amateur astronomers.

Diane Hall, a member of the Warren Astronomical Society, drew a large audience to her discussion on the Command Module Columbia, "the best ship to come down the line," the Lunar Module Eagle, and the astronauts who piloted the Eagle to the moon's surface.

Anthony Pecoraro views the moon surface at the Cranbrook Observatory at the Cranbrook Science Museum for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
 Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

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Michael Narlock, head of astronomy and exhibitions for Cranbrook, said they looked forward to the event for years and spent weeks putting it together.

In the background, a projector played a rebroadcasting of the event at the same time it occurred 50 years ago.

"One of the neatest things is our rebroadcasting of the mission in real-time," he said. "It happened at 4:17 p.m. and in between our talks, it will be replaying giving the experience like you would have been there."

In the planetarium, visitors were immersed in a virtual reality experience. Headsets showed a high-definition look of what astronomers saw on the moon.

Scott Liefer of Bloomfield Hills wears a virtual reality headset as he views the lunar module for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing at the Cranbrook Institute of Science on Saturday, July 20, 2019.
 Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

"We visited the observatory and watched a movie on the Apollo mission so far," said Jeff Hribar, who brought his 8-year-old son Jacob. "I'm a space junkie from childhood so nothing really surprises me, but I'm fascinated by the computer technology they had to invent to get there and back."

Did you know?

  • The moon is 238,900 miles away from earth. 
  • The Apollo 11 moon landing was watching on television by nearly 600 million people around the planet.
  • Neil Armstrong carried with him a piece of wood and fabric from an airplane that belonged to the Wright brothers. To him, these symbolized the great progress made in aviation.
  • Astronauts left photos of humans as well as audio recordings in several different languages on the moon's surface.

Narlock said it was important to mark the event because for many it was a seminal moment in their lives.

"People tend to have these memories of where they were when major events occurred and generally, those are negative events like the JFK assassination, 9/11. This is one of those rare events of celebration," he said. 

Kids of all ages participated in making moon calendars to tell each phase, lunar cootie catchers and were struck by a large Lego replica of the shuttle. 

"For a lot of kids, they weren't alive when it happened and ... they're going to be the next generation of explorers," Narlock said.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_