UTA Planetarium’s Mooniversary event celebrates one giant leap for mankind

Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands just beyond the north strut of Apollo 11. The 50th anniversary of the moon landing is July 20.

Saturday marks 50 years since America launched itself into history by landing the first man to ever walk on the moon. Stepping off the Apollo 11 spacecraft, astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered the now famous saying, “That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Physics professor Manfred Cuntz said he remembers the Apollo 11 moon landing vividly.

As a young boy, he lived in a small town in West Germany. Cuntz said his family was lucky to own a television at the time, which he wasn’t allowed to watch. But the moon landing was different.

That day was a special occasion for all of mankind, not just America. About 650 million people watched the event on television, according to the NASA website.

Everyone in town was excited to watch the moon landing, and his parents called him in from playing outside to enjoy the historic moment, Cuntz said.

“Even at that time, I [had] started to develop an interest in science,” he said.

The first moon landing propelled a deeper curiosity in himself and motivated other countries to explore other planets as well as the moon, he said.

From there, space exploration rocketed.

Physics professor Yue Deng said in an email that space exploration has progressed through different stages: long-distance rockets, humans traveling in space, landing on the moon, space shuttles and a space station.

She said space exploration has strongly impacted society’s forms of communication, navigation, imaging and education. For example, it boosted the development of satellite television programs, GPS systems and satellite photographs of the Earth, lending different angles to our vision of the world.

NASA plans to take space exploration a step further soon and send people to Mars, Deng said.

Cuntz said mankind has the drive to continue space exploration, but the main difficulties will be patience and funding.

“Since money can only [be] spent once, money spent on science and money spent by NASA is always in competition of course with other ways of spending,” he said.

The issue is a matter of priority, he said.

Planetarium director Levent Gurdemir said space exploration should focus on Mars and other planets because the moon was only man’s first goal.

“The moon is already done,” he said. “Doing something one more time is not cool; we need to do something that [has] never [been] done before.”

Some will argue it isn’t possible to send men to Mars, and that America didn’t even land men on the moon — that the entire moon landing is a hoax.

Gurdemir said these conspiracies come from other countries America rivaled nearly 50 years ago.

However, there isn’t any way such a huge event could have been a hoax, he said. The theories are based on weak “proof” and pictures that don’t live up to what they claim.

“It sounds good to some people, believing that,” Gurdemir said. “But certainly, we went to the moon.”

@CecilLenzen

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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