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Campus to celebrate 50th anniversary of historic Moon landing

Free event at UC Riverside includes hands-on activities, lecture, and telescope viewings
By IQBAL PITTALWALA |

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon mission. To celebrate, the University of California, Riverside, is hosting a free public event on Thursday, July 11, from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Attendees will have an opportunity to learn more about the Apollo 11 legacy, as well as current missions to our solar-system’s planets and moons. The event, which will take place in Pierce Lawn and the Life Sciences Building, will also feature telescope viewings of the moon, and multiple hands-on activities. 

On July 16, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins lifted off from Earth on a journey to the moon. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface.

“Landing on the moon was probably the single most important achievement of humankind since the beginning of civilization,” said Bahram Mobasher, a professor of physics and observational astronomy. He’s an expert on the formation and evolution of galaxies and the search for the most distant ones. “This honor belongs to all humanity regardless of race, religion, or the country of the origin. It shows the power of our will and the strength of our desires — a clear demonstration of what science can do.”

Stephen Kane, an associate professor of planetary astrophysics, agrees that the moon landing represents a significant milestone in our advancement of our civilization.

“For the first time in history, we were finally free from being restricted to only walking upon our planet,” said Kane, an expert on the detection, characterization, and habitability of exoplanets. “However, the famous quote of the landing being a ‘giant leap for mankind’ is more than just about scientific progress. It was an event that truly unified humanity and provided a key moment of reflection on how we are all custodians of our beautiful island oasis in a vast universe, and we should never lose sight of that big picture.”

Hands-on activities, such as touching a Martian meteorite, understanding the phases and eclipses of the moon, and cratering experiments, will take place from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Life Sciences courtyard, and will resume at 8:30 p.m. along with telescope viewings in Pierce Lawn.

Timothy Lyons, a distinguished professor of biogeochemistry in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, will give a talk titled “Fifty Years of Discovery — From the Moon to Mars and Beyond” in Life Sciences 1500.

No RSVP is required to attend the event. Complimentary parking will be available for attendees in Lot 6.

“The moon landing was the first and one of the greatest attempts at space exploration in the entire human history,” said event organizer Xinnan Du, a postdoctoral scholar and director of education and public outreach in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “As a millennial, I’ve always been awed by the fact that humankind had already walked on the surface of another celestial object when technology was still barely part of everyday life. This anniversary is an amazing opportunity to not only celebrate the achievement we made 50 years ago, but also learn about how far we’ve come in exploring space: from the moon, to Mars, to Pluto, and the outer edge of the solar system.”

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