As the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaches Saturday, Los Angeles-area institutions are commemorating that extraordinary, defining moment in American history. It’s fitting, given that the aerospace industry was thriving here in Southern California during the the 1960s and early 1970s. The Apollo command module (the one shaped like a cone) and the service module were designed and built in Downey by North American Aviation for NASA. Today, those bits of history are resurfacing in exhibitions, screenings, performances and talks. Here are seven ways to relive one giant leap for mankind.
California Science Center
Exposition Park, Los Angeles
On Saturday, the California Science Center hosts “Apollo 11 Celebration: Looking Back, Leaping Forward,” a day of free admission to see an exhibition featuring space capsules from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. Mercury- and Apollo-era space suits will be on view, as will a prized moon rock. Jet Propulsion Laboratory will set up a portable planetarium, and a NASA expert will answer questions. “Apollo 11: First Steps Edition,” a 47-minute version of the acclaimed documentary by Todd Douglas Miller, will screen in the center’s Imax theater (ticketed admission). californiasciencecenter.org
Columbia Memorial Space Center
This city boasts a museum on the tract where North American Aviation designed and built the Apollo Command and Service modules. It celebrates the Apollo 11 mission with new themed showcases, including two with memorabilia from former aerospace employees. On Thursday, Lunar Pub Night will feature former aerospace engineers chatting about the Apollo era in two local watering holes. Other activities are scheduled for NASA Day (Friday) and Landing Day (Saturday). The ongoing Apollo Speaker Series, moderated by 40-year aerospace veteran Gerald A. Blackburn, next features Apollo engineering technician Anthony Vidana on July 28. columbiaspacescience.org
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
While President John F. Kennedy uttered the words that ignited the Apollo program, the mission was accomplished under President Nixon. The museum has opened the exhibition “Apollo 11: One Giant Leap for Mankind,” running through Jan. 12. It features NASA’s X-15 pressure suit used to train astronauts in the 1950s, the penlight Buzz Aldrin wielded in the lunar module, the telephone Nixon used in the Oval Office to call astronauts Neil Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon, and Nixon’s draft speech (written by William Safire) in case things went wrong. And yes, more moon rock. Celebrations on Saturday start with the Space Race 5K fun run through Yorba Linda; various presentations and family activities follow. Admission that day is free. nixonfoundation.org
On Aug. 15, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presents “America in Space,” a concert with clips from films about the American space program, past and future. The program opens and closes with the “Mars” and “Jupiter” sections from Holst’s “The Planets.” In between will be selections from two Academy Award-winning scores, Steven Price’s “Gravity” and Bill Conti’s “The Right Stuff.” Penka Kouneva’s “Women Astronauts” will be accompanied by violinist Nathan Cole. David Newman conducts. hollywoodbowl.com
Ten days of special programming and family activities are planned for the Golden Moon Festival now running. A talk Thursday will center on humankind’s enduring dream of going to the moon. A full day of talks on Saturday includes such topics as “A Look Back at Apollo 11,” “The Mysteries of the Moon” and “Our Future on the Moon.” The observatory has set up “Stations of Apollo” on the front lawn — a scale model of the Apollo 11 mission tracked each day until the return to Earth on July 24. griffithobservatory.org
L.A. Public Library
Presentations and talks organized by the Columbia Memorial Space Center will take place at different libraries during the next couple of months. Artifacts will travel to the San Pedro Regional Library at 2 p.m. July 27 and the Alma Reaves Woods-Watts Branch Library at 3 p.m. July 30. Talks with aerospace professionals take place at West Valley Regional Branch Library at 1 p.m. July 27 and with Columbia executive director Ben Dickow moderating at the Central Library at 2 p.m. Sept. 22.
‘Apollo 11 — The Immersive Live Show’
Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Live actors, documentary footage, archival audio and 360-degree video projection inside a gigantic $5-million dome set up in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl tell the story of the mission to the moon. Props simulate a rocket launch and include a life-sized re-creation of the lunar landing module. Performances are Tuesdays-Sundays, through Sept. 1, and tickets are $45-$215 (subject to change). The production moves to Costa Mesa from Oct. 10-Nov. 24.