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Penn State Commemorates Apollo 11’s Trip to the Moon with Launch of Model Rockets

by and on July 18, 2019 10:34 AM

Fifty years ago the whole world watched as NASA took “one giant leap” with the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first astronauts on the moon.

At the exact moment of the launch, 50 years later, at 9:32 a.m. on Tuesday, July 16, a crowd watched as Penn State helped support an attempt by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center to break the Guinness World Record for most model rockets launched simultaneously.

The crowd counted down the moment and then looked toward the sky after Randall Bock pressed the button that sent the first model rocket hurtling toward the sky. The first series of rockets launched were made by Penn State students.

Departments in the colleges of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Engineering and Agricultural Sciences and the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium coordinated the family event to highlight the importance of the Apollo 11 anniversary and STEM education.

The event supported the attempt by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., to break the Guinness World Record for the most model rockets launched simultaneously by launching 5,000 at the same time. The previous record was 3,974.

The event, which was free and open to the public, took place at the Ag Progress Days site, Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center in Ferguson Township, nine miles southwest of State College on state Route 45.

After the initial 24 rockets were launched, members of the community had an opportunity to launch their own model rockets.

The first 50 children between the ages of 7 and 13 received a rocket kit to assemble and launch under supervision. There were also 3D-printed rockets for younger children to decorate.

Thirteen-year-old Sofia Maurow, of Boalsburg, said putting together the rocket was difficult, but that it was neat to see what goes into it and watch it blast into the sky.

It was a chance for her to be a part of something big and it made her think about what the Apollo 11 launched looked like 50 years ago. She is interested in space exploration and enjoyed the event’s hands-on approach.

SOFIA MAUROW hands a model rocket she put together to Randall Bock at an event to commemorate 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon launch. Departments in the colleges of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Engineering and Agricultural Sciences and the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium coordinated the event to highlight the importance of the Apollo 11 anniversary and STEM education. Photo by Vincent Corso/The Gazette

And that was just the kind of thing that the organizers were hoping for — getting kids interested STEM education. Bock, an assistant research professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Penn State, said that launching rockets got him into the sciences when he was younger and he hopes this event might inspire some young minds as well.

The Pasto Agricultural Museum also featured a special “Food on the Go” program with hands-on activities from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The program focused on the history of food and travel, from Viking explorers to Oregon Trail settlers to astronauts. Visitors had an opportunity to identify menus on a food timeline and sample freeze-dried astronaut food.

Additional activities included space-themed entertainment and STEM exhibits and demonstrations.

Speaker and Film Event Set for Saturday

To celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing, Penn State will host a speaker and film event on Saturday at The State Theatre. The free public event begins at 6:15 p.m. with informational and interactive displays set up inside the theater.

Former NASA astronaut James Pawelczyk, an associate professor of physiology and kinesiology at Penn State who flew aboard the NASA STS-90 Space Shuttle mission, will speak at 7 p.m. before introducing the 2019 documentary “Apollo 11.” 

The film uses archival footage of the Apollo 11 mission, some previously unreleased to the public, and includes scenes from Launch Complex 39; the launch of the Saturn V rocket; the recovery of astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins and the Apollo 11 command module; and post-mission efforts aboard the USS Hornet.

For more information about this and other Apollo 11 50th anniversary events, visit www.pa.spacegrant.org.



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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