Learn About North Carolina and the Space Race at 'One Giant Leap'

Apollo-era artifacts from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will be on display at the North Carolina Museum of History
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Image courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History

Almost 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong and the rest of the Apollo 11 crew took one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind. July 20, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and to celebrate, the North Carolina Museum of History will open a new exhibit, "One Giant Leap: North Carolina and the Space Race," on April 5.

“The 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon is an excellent opportunity to bring this story of American achievement to a new generation of museum visitors, and to remind those who witnessed it in 1969 of the awe and inspiration it created,” said Dr. Valerie Neal, Chair of the Air and Space museum’s Space History Department. 

Did you know that North Carolina has direct ties to the space race? From flight test engineers, military bases, training centers, and even housing the first chimp that went into space, North Carolina was a large contributor to the space race.

“In the course of my research, I personally have been surprised by the number of connections we’ve been able to unearth,” says exhibit curator Jessica Bandel. “I think visitors will be amazed by some of the stories we’re highlighting, and I hope this exhibit leaves them with a newfound sense of pride in their state.”

"One Giant Leap: North Carolina and the Space Race" will be a 1,500 square foot lobby exhibit that explores North Carolina's role in the space race, containing stories about the people, places, chimps and things that helped make America's historic leap to the Moon. Visitors can try out the Gemini training module from Morehead Planetarium or test their ability to follow directions at Mission Control during a critical phase in the Apollo 11 mission.

The exhibit will also feature artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, including actual Apollo items like a Presidential Medal of Freedom, astronaut John Young’s Apollo 16 chronograph and a training helmet. 

The museum will also be hosting several activities and events to further celebrate the Apollo 11 anniversary throughout the year. Read below to see some of the fun activities planned.

LIVE! One Giant Leap: To the Moon (and Back)

Gerry Griffin (giving the "thumbs up"), American aeronautical engineer and former NASA official, served as flight director during Apollo program

Photo courtesy of NASA

Fri., April 5, 10:15–11:15 a.m.
Watch a LIVE! exploration of Tar Heel ties to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions with a very special guest: Gerry Griffin. Griffin is a former director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston and, during NASA’s Apollo program, he was a flight director in Mission Control. This free live-streaming program features "One Giant Leap" Bandel, who will share stories of the people, places, and things that helped humankind make that historic “one giant leap” on the moon. 

One Giant Leap Festival

Sat., July 20, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11's landing! This indoor and outdoor celebration will feature hands-on crafts, demonstrations and activities — including a virtual reality lab where you can "travel" to space and "be" the first person on the Moon; and a bungee-jumping station where you can experience weightlessness, like real astronauts. More and more out-of-this-world fun will be announced as the festival nears. We'll update this page as information comes in.


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