San Diego, CA - August 20, 2009 - The San Diego Air & Space Museum and the USS Midway Museum have partnered to pay tribute to the 40th anniversary of America's lunar exploration this September 4th and 5th with Race to the Moon: A Celebration with Space Legends. The weekend events honor the heroic achievements of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs which took America into space, to the moon and back. Fourteen astronauts currently plan to attend this momentous occasion.
Friday, September 4, 2009 - "Meet the Space Legends"
6 -10 PM, San Diego Air and Space Museum
Meet and talk to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts during an intimate cocktail reception at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Participate in a moderated forum, on stage, where over a dozen space legends describe their personal experiences and provide a unique perspective on the past and future of space exploration. Hors d'oeuvres & Open Bar, Cocktail Attire
Saturday, September 5, 2009 - "Moonlight on the Bay"
6 -10 PM, USS Midway Museum
Honor the astronauts at a spectacular gala dinner that will culminate in an American Patriot award presentation on the flight desk of the USS Midway Museum. A full moon and harbor view are sure to make this a truly stunning, out-of-this-world experience. Full course dinner, Black Tie Attire.
Ticket prices and additional information can be found at www.racetothemoonsd.org.
The astronauts attending are the remarkable aviators who flew the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, the first Americans in space, and include many explorers who visited the moon. These were the Americans with the “Right Stuff:” adventurers, scientists, explorers, test pilots who embraced President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Some of these astronauts even flew the follow-on Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz space program missions. In one room, you’ll encounter people who lived and worked in space, walked on the moon, and have some of the most unique experiences and stories imaginable. This is a rare and special opportunity to hear them on the 40th anniversary of mankind’s greatest achievement, the Apollo moon landings.
America established three key space programs – Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. Each flight of these programs was a key to reaching the moon. This methodical and technically challenging effort required a NASA team comprised of the finest men and women our nation could assemble. But it was also the will of a nation, the Cold War, challenges from the Soviet Union and from President Kennedy who believed in his nation’s greatness. There was an understanding that we must constantly seek new and higher goals, and the “Race-to-the-Moon” helped America win the Cold War. We honor those astronauts and the NASA team who made a difference and continue to inspire young Americans to excel.
One of America’s original Mercury 7 astronauts, Scott Carpenter became the second American to orbit the Earth, following the pioneering flight of John Glenn. Carpenter’s space flight capped an impressive career as a navy test pilot. He went on to explore the ocean depths as part of the Navy’s Sealab project, off the coast of La Jolla here in San Diego.
Commander of the Apollo 9 spacecraft featured in the San Diego Air & Space Museum’s rotunda, Jim McDivitt made his spaceflight debut as a commander, piloting Gemini 4 while Ed White made America’s first spacewalk. McDivitt then commanded Apollo 9, a crucial test of the entire Apollo rocket and spacecraft system without which Apollo 11 could not have landed on the moon mere months later, before going on to manage the lunar landing team for the rest of the Apollo program.
A former head of the astronaut corps, Tom Stafford made four historic space flights, including the first joint American-Russian mission. His first mission, Gemini 6, saw him participating in the first ever space rendezvous. Following his second Gemini mission, Gemini 9, Stafford commanded Apollo 10, a vital dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing. Stafford’s final flight was the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first handshake in space between astronauts and cosmonauts.
Famous for leaving the last (for now) footprints on the surface of the moon, Gene Cernan first flew with Tom Stafford on Gemini 9, making an ambitious and risky spacewalk, before joining Stafford again for the Apollo 10 mission. One of the very few to visit the moon twice, Cernan’s last space mission was as commander of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon, where he lived, slept and explored for three days. Prior to joining NASA, Cernan was a fighter pilot based in San Diego.
Already a renowned test pilot, Dick Gordon’s first mission with NASA was Gemini 11, where he made a remarkable spacewalk, followed by his role as command module pilot for Apollo 12, the second lunar landing mission. Gordon spent over a day alone orbiting the moon. Gordon would have walked on the moon himself on Apollo 18, but budget cutbacks canceled his mission.
Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made the first landing on the surface of the moon. Spending over two hours on the lunar surface, the astronauts carried out humankind’s first in-person exploration of another world. Aldrin had previously flown on the Gemini 12 mission, where he made a number of spacewalks that revealed important lessons in how to work in space.
Walt Cunningham was a crew member on the vital first manned flight of the Apollo program, Apollo 7. During the 11-day mission, Cunningham helped to thoroughly test-fly a brand new generation of spacecraft. Cunningham went on to head up work on America’s Skylab space station, before writing the frankest of all astronaut books, The All-American Boys.
Bill Anders holds the distinction of, along with his Apollo 8 crewmates, being the first person to leave Earth orbit and journey to the moon. His Apollo 8 mission in December of 1968 orbited the moon ten times, and provided humankind’s first view of our home planet from afar. A San Diego native, Anders went on to become United States Ambassador to Norway.
Rusty Schweickart was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 9, rocketing into orbit inside the spacecraft which can now be viewed in the rotunda of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. He tested the spacesuit type to be used on the lunar surface in a spacewalk, and worked with Jim McDivitt to thoroughly test-fly the lunar module spacecraft. After heading important work for the Skylab space station, Schweickart now works in a field vital to the survival of humanity – the tracking of asteroids that might threaten life on Earth if they impact our planet.
Al Bean became the fourth person to set foot on the surface of the moon during 1969’s Apollo 12 mission. His second spaceflight was as commander of America’s first space station, Skylab, where he set an endurance record of 59 days in space carrying out a range of science experiments. Bean now devotes his time to capturing memories of lunar surface exploration through the medium of oil painting, and has become a world-renowned and much-exhibited artist.
Fred Haise is best known as one of the crew members of the Apollo 13 mission, returning to earth after six perilous days in space in a damaged spacecraft. Haise’s thorough knowledge of his lunar module ensured the crew’s survival following a near-deadly in-flight explosion. Haise went on to command the first space shuttle, Enterprise, during its critical landing tests.
Al Worden made the first deep-space spacewalk as the Apollo 15 spacecraft returned from the moon after an ambitious mission of lunar exploration. Worden had just spent six days orbiting the moon, much of it alone, scientifically mapping and studying the surface. Worden went on to become the first astronaut poet, writing a book of poems about his moon flight, and now heads the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, assisting exceptional students in science and engineering.
Charlie Duke was the voice that billions heard from Mission Control carefully helping to guide Apollo 11 to its historic landing on the surface of the moon. Three years later, Duke stood on the surface of the moon himself, as a crewmember of the Apollo 16 mission which spent three days exploring the lunar surface, including driving across the terrain in a lunar rover.
Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was the twelfth and last person to step onto the surface of the moon. The only moon explorer with a doctorate in geology, Schmitt spent three days on the lunar surface conducting geological exploration. Schmitt went on to become a Senator representing the state of New Mexico. He now devotes his time to studying methods to return to the moon and use its resources.
The San Diego Air & Space Museum is California’s official air and space museum and education center. The Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and it was the first aero-themed Museum to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. Currently on display: THE DA VINCI EXPERIENCE, a special exhibition featuring remarkable reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous artwork and interactive replicas of his mechanical devices created more than 500 years ago. Visit www.sandiegoairandspace.org for more information. The Museum is located at 2001 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101. The Museum and gift store are open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with admissions until 5:00 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
The USS Midway Museum is the most-visited floating ship museum in the country. The museum features self-guided audio tours of 25 restored aircraft and 60 locations, from the engine room to the bridge, featuring Midway veterans as narrators. Optional flight simulators, gift shop and a café also are onboard. The museum is located along downtown San Diego’s Embarcadero and is open daily. For more information, call (619) 544-9600 or visit www.midway.org.