Apollopalooza will celebrate the innovation, technology and leadership that first blasted man into space and onto the moon 50 years ago on July 21, 1969.

The festival will feature more than 60 speakers, including former U.S. Sen. Harrison Schmitt of New Mexico, a crew member of Apollo 17 and the most recent man to walk on the moon, as well as Eugene Kranz, a retired fighter pilot and NASA flight director and manager. He directed Gemini and Apollo missions, including Apollo 11, which made the first lunar landing.

“I looked at Apollo 11 as one chapter in a book,” said Kranz. “Getting to Apollo 11, I had to ... work and execute through all the other chapters. Apollo 11 set the foundation for those things that we would do later, and when we thought about what we would do on the next mission, we selected a very precise location that we had put (in place) years before.”

The Apollo 11 mission was a turbulent voyage, with communication problems, navigation errors and program alarms. But men finally set foot on the moon.

While America celebrated Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s steps on the moon, Kranz said he and his team could not.

“We landed with 17 seconds of fuel remaining. We had to run three decisions to stay on the moon. The first one was two minutes after landing, the second was eight minutes after landing, and the final decision was two hours on the moon. Once we made that final decision, we could join the rest of the world celebrating.”

Fifty years later, the world will celebrate again.

“You look at all the anniversaries for Apollo, and many of these icons may not be around for that next anniversary,” said Ben Theune, marketing manager of Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, where the festival will be held. “This is an incredible time to hear their stories and understand the work and sacrifice that they’ve made over the years to make this milestone possible.”

Apollopalooza youth activities will include a STEAM For All festival from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, free for children 16 and younger, with hands-on experiments, an exhibit of artifacts from the Apollo space missions, space simulation and more.

Kranz says the possibilities of space exploration are unlimited.

“Life, to all of us, is a process of continuing to grow in knowledge, skills and capabilities. Unless we move, we don’t grow. Never give up. Keep driving forward. Pursue your goals and, when you have trouble, pick yourself up and continue on.”

Sofia Krusmark, The Gazette,

Load comments