How to celebrate the Apollo 11 anniversary in Melbourne

Living Well | Nick Platt | Photos: NASA | Posted on 09 July 2019

A guide to events commemorating the 50th anniversary of man on the moon.

July 20, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin’s historic landing on the moon during NASA's Apollo 11 mission.  

During the 1960s and '70s, NASA sent nine manned spacecraft to the Moon, six of which placed astronauts on the surface in what was one of the most astonishing feats of engineering in human history. The machines used were as breathtaking as the task itself, with the mighty Saturn V rocket first stage putting out about the same amount of power as every electricity generating station in Australia today, combined, to send the spacecraft moonward. 

NASA rocket blasts into space

NASA space craft blasts into space from the Kennedy Space Center. Photo: NASA


Australia played a massive part in the program, particularly in tracking and transmitting the signals from the spacecraft. 

The images of the landing itself were received by the massive 64 metre antenna in Parkes NSW whilst the television footage and words of Armstrong’s ‘One small step for mankind’ were beamed live to an awestruck world from the dish at Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra.

Closer to home, world renowned Melbourne based geologist Professor John Lovering then of Head of Earth Sciences at University of Melbourne was amongst a very select handful given the task of providing expert commentary on the landing itself. 

He was subsequently honoured by NASA as a principle investigator for the moon rocks and other geological samples Apollo 11 brought home, some of which were first analysed right here in Melbourne.

As you might expect with such a momentous anniversary, several events are being held around the state to celebrate the landing.

Early photo of Buzz Aldrin putting American flag on the moon.

Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin poses on the moon with a US flag. Photo: NASA


Black and white close up photo of craters on the moon

NASA images of the moon's cratered surface. Photo: NASA


How to join in the Apollo 11 anniversary celebrations

Spend an evening with astronomy experts and astrophysicists

Professor Lovering has had a long connection to Victorian science education, including Museums Victoria, so it’s fitting that their ScienceWorks museum will be running a major celebration of the Moon Landing with an evening of activities exploring this extraordinary feat of human ingenuity and passion on Saturday 20 July.

The evening will feature an expert panel discussion moderated by science journalist and broadcaster Robyn Williams, which will include astrophysicist associate professor Alan Duffy and astronaut trainer Dr Gail Iles talking about the Apollo 11 mission and Australia’s involvement. The night will also include Planetarium screenings showcasing the achievements of the Apollo program Apollo 11 photography exhibition, a spacewalk VR experience and telescope viewings.

Attend a space-inspired art exhibition

There is always art in science and to celebrate this The Geelong Gallery will open the doors to their free major exhibit ‘The Moon’ on the 15 June and will run to 01 September 2019 with a number of sub-exhibits including a pop-up planetarium on the 20th July anniversary itself.

Get up close and personal with space stuff

Meanwhile, from 20 July to 8 September, Gippsland Art Gallery will present Space, an exhibition of art and artifacts to celebrate the 50th anniversary and will feature works from over fifteen artists, together with astronauts’ photographs and actual space hardware.

Go to a telescope party

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and subsequent walk on the surface by Armstrong and Aldrin, the Astronomical Society of Victoria will be showing the craters, mountains, valleys and plains of the moon through large portable telescopes to the public.

See a movie

The Sun Theatre in Yarraville is mooning Victorians with its Apollo 11 anniversary Moon Film Festival, which takes place from July 16 to 24 to coincide with the dates of the Apollo 11 mission. Curated by Adventurer of the Year Michael Smith, The Moon Film Festival will showcase a selection of obscure, short and even the “cheesy” films that feature our beloved silver star. There will be screening events within the cinema to suit all ages.

Hear the sounds of space

Ever wondered what space sounds like? Join associate professor Kenny McAlpine from The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, and Laby Teaching and Outreach fellow Clare Kenyon from the School of Physics, for a cosmic Musical Explorations talk. Held at the Ian Potter Centre, and presented by the Melbourne Recital Centre, this musical exploration event will highlight the music and noise we send out, the sounds from the universe we have collected and their impact on the creation of music.

See the cosmos through Indigenous storytelling 

Thousands of miles separate the continents of the world yet, for some mysterious reason, lunar and stellar interpretations around the globe bear a striking resemblance. Could this have something to do with psychological pattern recognition, the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences asks? And can we use the same method to encode our own memories in the modern world? Join a panel of experts from the University of Melbourne, ACMI, and Monash University for an evening of Pysch Talks exploring what Indigenous storytelling can teach us about our memories.