By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma City Astronomy Club will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on Saturday, July 20, with a community-wide star party hosted by the Boathouse District, at 800 Riversport Drive, along the Oklahoma River.
Club members will set up telescopes by dark on the Boathouse grounds and give visitors views of Jupiter, Saturn, star clusters, double stars and the Moon after it rises shortly after 11 p.m. Club members will have video capability on some scopes.
There will also be special displays about astronomy and all parking is free. Boathouse District attractions will not be open for the evening.
Mike Knopp, Boathouse District executive director, said his staff is thrilled to host the event.
“Ours is a place for adventure, and it is fitting that we can help celebrate the golden anniversary of the greatest adventure in the history of space exploration,” he said.
Apollo 11 lifted off from Cape Canaveral on July 16, 1969, carrying astronauts Mike Collins, Edwin A. “Buzz” Aldrin and Neil Armstrong into orbit around the Moon four days later. After Armstrong and Aldrin piloted their lunar landing craft to the surface that afternoon, Armstrong opened the hatch and became the first human to step on another celestial body at 9:56 p.m., Oklahoma time.
Armstrong’s words stating “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” became one of the most famous sentences in history.
NASA and other government agencies will be hosting special anniversary events on July 20, and the OKC Astronomy Club wanted to join the celebration with a local event that will put Oklahomans in touch with the night sky, organizers said.
Founded in 1958, the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club provides three major benefits to the community: “We provide educational opportunities to the public in the sciences and academics, opportunities to contribute valuable scientific research and data to the astronomical community, and opportunities less experienced members to grow in one of the greatest hobbies in this world or any other,” the website states.
The club has some 200 members and meets on the second Friday evening of each month at Science Museum Oklahoma. Members also own and operate Cheddar Ranch Observatory in Blaine County and host the annual Okie-Tex Star Party, which draws amateur astronomers from all over the nation to the Oklahoma Panhandle each fall.
“We are looking forward to the largest Star party we’ve ever held to celebrate this big anniversary,” said Mike Brake, OKC Astronomy Club member. “This is a family event so we hope to see a lot of our Oklahoma neighbors.”
In case of inclement weather on July 20 or for more information, visit okcastroclub.com.