The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City is counting on a bit of New Year’s Eve-style stagecraft to add authenticity to its 50th anniversary moon landing celebration on July 20.
At 4:18 p.m.— exactly 50 years (New York time) from the moment astronauts landed on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969 — an 8-foot-tall, NASA-made 1/3 scale aluminum, steel and fiberglass model of the Lunar Module will be lowered from the museum’s atrium to a countdown from the crowd, says museum spokeswoman Frances Perpero.
The Cradle, home to one of the nation’s largest collections of Apollo program artifacts on display, according to museum officials, is one of several Long Island venues turning back time to mark the milestone with interactive activities and special guests including astronauts and retired Grumman space program workers.
“We like to encourage kids and their families to think about the next generation of space exploration while celebrating Long Island’s past,” says Catherine Gonzales, the museum's education director.
Here are six other ways festivalgoers can relive the “giant step for mankind.”
TAKE A SPACE EXHIBIT WALK
The permanent exhibit contains the Lunar Module 13, which was made in Bethpage but didn’t go to the moon, and a recreated “Bethpage Clean Room” showing how lunar modules were built in a sterile environment.
In the temporary “Space, a Journey to Our Future” exhibit, kids can make a bottle water rocket to fly outside the museum, ride a motorized buggy, manipulate space gloves and make a moon boot. They can see moon and Mars rocks collected on space missions and walk through a full-size simulation of a future Lunar Base Camp’s work and living spaces.
Space astronauts Capt. William Shepherd of Babylon and Charles Camarda of Ozone Park, Queens, will take selfies with visitors and answer questions about their NASA careers. Both men also spent time on the International Space Station.
TALK TO SCIENTISTS
A number of museum docents worked at Grumman Aerospace during the 1960s and will answer festivalgoers’ questions about their part in the Apollo program, which carried 12 astronauts to the moon between 1969 and 1972. “It was the most exciting thing in the world,” docent Mike Lisa of Hicksville says of working on the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) during his 36-year career as a Grumman engineer.
WATCH THE MOON LANDING IN A MOD SPACE
The museum’s other new temporary exhibit recreates a 1960s living room replete with shag carpet, beaded curtains and lava lamp. Visitors can sit on a sofa and watch a vintage TV set to “experience the tension of the moon landing as most of America did in 1969, listening to Walter Cronkite,” says exhibit curator Joshua Stoff.
SEE A MOVIE
The museum’s Dome Theater will be offering free screenings “Apollo 11: First Steps Edition,” a 47-minute special IMAX edition of a new documentary packed with newly-discovered 70 mm footage and audio recordings.
(DINNER) PARTY LIKE IT'S 1969
Long Island’s role in the Apollo program will be celebrated with a 7-11 p.m. Champagne dinner, music and dancing ($125). A second community countdown marks the Neil Armstrong’s at 10:56 p.m. “giant leap” to the moon’s surface — synced to archival video.
Apollo at 50: Moon Fest
WHEN | WHERE 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. July 20 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City
INFO 516-572-4111, cradleofaviation.org/apollo
ADMISSION $20 ($15 ages 2-12)
OTHER APOLLO EVENTS
Vanderbilt Museum, Centerport
The weekend of July 19-21 brings special programming including screenings of the historical documentary "Capcom Go! The Apollo Story" on the planetarium's dome ($14-$18). Former Grumman Aerospace design engineer Peter Reganato will give a lecture 1 p.m. Saturday.
INFO $8 adults ($5 ages 12 and younger), 631-854-5579, vanderbiltmuseum.org
Long Island Children's Museum, Garden City
The museum rolls out special Apollo-centric programming July 15-21 including "Apollopalooza, noon-3 p.m. July 20 with activities for kids ages 3 and older centered around the milestone mission.
INFO $14 (free younger than 1), 516-224-5800, licm.org
Bethpage Public Library
The library in Grumman Aerospace's hometown leans into its history with special programming July 16-19, including a lunar landing-themed escape room (registration required) and a series of movie screenings. Visitors can learn about Grumman's role in shaping the Apollo modules and meet former workers in its retiree club.
INFO Free, 516-931-3907, bethpagelibrary.info