Library’s Journey to the Moon celebrates historic moon landing

By Jill Draper

Fifty years ago this month three men flew to the moon and mankind took its first “giant leap” on the lunar surface. The Red Bridge Branch Library will present a program, “Journey to the Moon,” at 7 p.m. Monday, July 22, to celebrate that anniversary and tell part of the story behind the landing.

The speaker is Joseph Wright, operations manager for the UMKC observatory and a member of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City. He also helps lead an outreach astronomy program for the Girl Scouts. He’ll share original Kodak photos of possible lunar landing sites, a lunar meteorite sample that can be viewed under a microscope, a replica of the Saturn V rocket and a video clip of the launch and moon walk.

It’s estimated that 650 million people watched Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong step onto the moon while Michael Collins piloted the orbiting command module on July 20, 1969. Most people then and now don’t realize how many mathematicians, engineers, designers, communicators, assembly workers, teletypists, quality control inspectors and other support staff it took to make the mission happen—about 400,000, says Wright. And despite crucial calculations made by large computers of the era, he says the slide rule was still used for last minute tweaks and checks.

Wright watched the moon landing from a hotel room while on a family vacation at age 7, and he acquired a telescope at age 14. He says even though the UMKC Warkoczewski Observatory is surrounded by city lights, it provides excellent views of Jupiter and Saturn as well as various galaxies, star clusters and nebulas. The Astronomical Society’s Powell Observatory is located near Louisburg in Miami County, Kansas, and offers darker skies for viewing. He’ll explain how the public can visit both facilities.

He mentions that on a dark, clear night, people can see one of the most visible galaxies, Andromeda, with only binoculars and sometimes with the naked eye. “What you’re actually seeing is light that left that galaxy 2 ½ million years ago,” he says. “To me, that’s pretty remarkable.”

Registration for the program is required. See mymcpl.org/events, or call the library at 816-942-1780.

Leave a Reply