DOWNEY — With two anniversaries upcoming, 2019 looks set to be huge for The Columbia Memorial Space Center.
2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, where astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took man’s first steps on the moon. Because of Downey’s rich and deep historical aerospace roots, CMSC Director Ben Dickow has said that the museum will feature plenty of exhibits, programs and activities, and events to pay homage to the landmark event.
“July 20 is 50 years since humanity stepped on the moon. Because this is where all that stuff was designed and built, we’ve made a really big play to be the Southern California hub of the celebration around that,” said Dickow. “Starting with a special exhibit on Nov. 30 of this year, going all the way into Dec. of 2019 and maybe a little beyond, we’ll be doing a ton of Apollo related stuff.”
Part of the celebration includes a speaker series, which will feature several individuals who worked on the Apollo program. This also includes a partnership with the Los Angeles Public Library to get a smaller version of the series out to their various branches. While details were still being confirmed at the time of writing, Dickow says that the speaker series may be recorded and picked up by NASA and the Smithsonian.
“We want to make this available to the world to come in and be able to downloaded it minutes after we do it,” said Dickow.
While many museums will likely be celebrating the historic moonwalk, Dickow says that CMSC will “stand out from the crowd.”
“We have this asset that nobody else does which is access to the people who actually built this stuff,” said Dickow. “There’s no other location out there that has the number of first-hand stories that we can tell, so we’re going to capitalize on that next year.”
Special hands-on, Apollo-related STEM programs are also being designed for the over year-long celebration.
“This is a big deal. We would be crazy not to capitalize on this huge anniversary,” said Dickow.
Plus, as a special tribute to the landing, the Space Center hopes to host a slew of more intensive, immersive activities to engage and involve the community.
“Apollo 11 launched July 16 and it came back on July 24,” said Dickow. “It just so happens that the 20th in 2019 is on a Saturday. That whole week we want to have more intensive events like reenactments of stuff.”
“Downey had a mission control…we’re going to reconfigure the mission control that’s part of the Challenger learning Center to make it look like the old Mission Support room, and do some reenactments there.”
This will include a collaboration with the Nixon Library. President Richard Nixon made the famous phone call to the moon.
CMSC also plans to live tweet the mission during the anniversary week.
For fans of the popular “Dapper Days” at Disneyland, CMSC has a real treat.
“We would love to do a city-wide ‘Walk Back into 1969’ Day, maybe on the 20th,” said Dickow. “The dream is to have everybody in town dress like 1969 and meet up at a few locations that were around 50 years ago just to watch the landing on monitors, grainy image and everything.”
“Basically, we want to do a ‘Dapper Day’ for a whole town on one day about the moon landing.”
For those who are fans of the CMSC’s annual events and activities, never fear; popular CMSC mainstays such as Rocket Fever, Space Expo and Long Beach Comic Con, and its participation in City of Stem will not be phased, now including some moon landing footprints (no pun intended).
“It’s going to pop up throughout the year and just sort of layer on to what we do already,” said Dickow.
On top of the Apollo anniversary, CMSC will also be celebrating its own anniversary on Oct. 23 next year.
“It all lines up,” said Dickow.
Dickow hopes that both anniversaries will help bring more patrons and attention to the already growing Space Center.
“We feel that this is going to be a national story and it should drive attendance, hopefully it’ll drive membership,” said Dickow. “It gets us out into the world a little bit more and with a bigger playing field.”
“A year ago, this was the future, but now we’re almost in 2019. Now I’m starting to think ‘how do we follow this up?’…We’re already are starting to become if not the, maybe the second or third place that people think about for this kind of stuff. In the next five years, we can really be the place for this kind of stuff.”