Review: 50th anniversary of the first moon landing

On Thursday, May 30th, 2019, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with over 1,000 visitors and guests in our space exhibition. For months, we had been trying different approaches with different people because the special anniversary was supposed to be celebrated duly. In addition to the future ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, we received a confirmation from Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke. With these confirmations at hand, we were certain that we could arrange a varied programme with regard to the lunar missions.

Even though Charlie Duke was not the first man on the moon, he was the youngest (Apollo 16). In his role as CapCom, he closely witnessed the decisive moments immediately before and during the first moon landing on July 20th, 1969, and was one of the only people to be allowed to talk to Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin in those significant moments. The moon walker already arrived on Tuesday with his wife. In addition to the first press events, he had enough time to visit the museum with exhibition manager Gerhard Daum. Although it was already his third visit to the museum in Speyer, his enthusiasm about the exhibition did not lessen.

Numerous e-mails and telephone requests already indicated that it might get crowded at the public event on May 30th. The morning was entirely dedicated to the media. Our moonscape served for numerous TV and radio reports as well as interviews of daily newspapers. After lunch (we served seasonal dishes with asparagus and strawberries), the astronauts Duke and Maurer made their way to the crowded space hall. All 600 seats were taken by visitors and even the standing rooms on the different galleries and in the lower section of the hall progressively filled up. At 2 pm, the event finally started. The space shuttle BURAN and the training module Spacelab created the perfect atmosphere for the welcome speech by the President of the museum Hermann Layher and the subsequent speeches by exhibition manager Gerhard Daum, moon walker Charlie Duke and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the programme was the speech by Charlie Duke. He talked about Apollo 11 and 16 with an intensity and enthusiasm as if it had been yesterday. The guests were captivated by his charm and humour. The audience showed its admiration by a big round of applause and standing ovations.

However, Matthias Maurer could easily keep up with Charlie Duke in terms of charm and enthusiasm. Even though he has not been in space yet, the native Saarlander amazed everyone with the captivating reports from his trainings. In the end, the three men started a round of discussions and talked about the past lunar missions as well as the future of manned spaceflight and the possibility to return to the moon.

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