Brown faculty, students to lead community celebration of Moon landing anniversary

A monthlong events series, free and open to the public, will celebrate 50 years since the first Moon landing and Rhode Island’s contributions to space exploration.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — July marks 50 years since the first humans set foot on the Moon, and Brown University faculty and students will take part in a monthlong anniversary celebration in Providence. Events include a “Museum of the Moon” exhibit at the WaterFire Arts Center, a series of expert talks on lunar and planetary exploration and a Moon-themed WaterFire lighting. 

“Landing on the Moon was a critically important experience for many people who eventually became today’s science and technology leaders today,” said Peter Schultz, a professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown. “It was the great turning point in space exploration. Since then we’ve gone on to explore every planet in the solar system plus Pluto, put robots on Mars, peer through the clouds of Venus and so much more. Rhode Islanders have been a part of much of this exploration, and this month’s events aim to highlight Rhode Island’s involvement in space.”

Schultz leads the NASA Rhode Island Space Grant Consortium, which is organizing the events series along with WaterFire Providence, Rhode Island’s NASA EPSCoR program and Brown.

Museum of the Moon,” an installation by artist Luke Jerram, will run from July 8 to 28 in the WaterFire Arts Center at 475 Valley St. in Providence. Jerram describes the installation as “a fusion of lunar imagery, moonlight and surround sound composition created by... award-winning composer Dan Jones.” The centerpiece is globe, 23 feet in diameter, onto which highly detailed lunar imagery from NASA is projected. Ten installations are currently touring the world, with exhibitions in cathedrals, on city streets and hanging above pools. 

“It really is a research-quality projection,” Schultz said of the globe. “Once you see this display, you won't look at the Moon in the same way again.”

An opening celebration from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Monday, July 8, will feature a presentation by Carter Emmart, director of astro-visualization at the American Museum of Natural History. Throughout the exhibit’s run, a “Space Science Chat” series will feature talks by space and planetary scientists from Brown and elsewhere. Topics include the Mars 2020 rover (Brown researchers played a leading role in choosing its landing site), the discovery of water on the Moon, space telescopes and the exploration of the lunar far side with NASA’s GRAIL spacecraft. The full chat series schedule is available on the R.I. Space Grant Consortium website.

Also running throughout July is an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in Roger Williams Park in Providence. The exhibit, titled “Many Inspired Steps: Salute to Apollo 11 and Lunar Exploration” will feature Rhode Island’s own Moon rock collected during the Apollo 17 mission. 

On Saturday, July 20, the 50th anniversary of the date of the Apollo 11 landing, a WaterFire lighting will celebrate those momentous first steps on the Moon. Among the festivities will be talks by Jeffrey Hoffman and Sherwood Spring, former NASA astronauts who flew during the Space Shuttle Program. The event will include a number of Moon- and space-themed science exhibits, and students in planetary sciences at Brown will make the rounds to answer people’s questions about space and planetary geology. 

“The Apollo missions engaged over 400,000 people in the first human landing on another world,” Schultz said. “We hope that this celebration will recapture that excitement and engage people in the present and future of space exploration.”