Recap of Race to the Moon
After our successful Apollo 8 event (and by successful I mean, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin came!) back in December of 2008, the USS Midway Museum approached us on working together to hold an event this year to honor not just the Apollo 8 anniversary but also the forty year anniversary of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space missions. We (the Museum) of course said yes and as the plans developed the one night event split into two and the Race to the Moon weekend was born.
Trying to get all the Space Race astronauts in one location would be like trying to herd cats, but we were very successful in having eight join us along with a former NASA Flight Controller. Those who came to be honored were Jim McDivitt (Gemini 4, Apollo 9), Walt Cunningham (Apollo 7), Bill Anders (Apollo 8), Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9), Alan Bean (Apollo 12, Skylab II), Fred Haise (Apollo 13), Al Worden (Apollo 15), Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), Glynn Lunney (Gemini & Apollo Flight Controller). Others in attendance were Charlie Bolden (STS 61-C, 31, 45, 60), who is also the new NASA Administrator, Bill Shepherd (first International Space Station commander), and Lee Scherer (Former NASA center director).
The first event took place on Friday night at the Museum. To prepare, we transformed our board room into a green room (more like a blue room) and gussied up the Pavilion. That night, the V.I.P.s chatted in the green room while the guest mingled below in the Pavilion enjoying hamburger sliders and other tasty appetizers (I did not get a chance to try them all, just the sliders). Friday evening gave the guests a chance to meet, talk to, and take a picture with the willing V.I.P.s. After mingling for awhile the guests took their seats and listened while the V.I.P.s took to the stage and talked about their involvement in the space race during a moderated forum. You can read the live tweets of the forum here. Buzz Aldrin even made a video appearance since he could not make it because of a conflicting engagement in Europe (too far away to make the drive if you ask me).
The next event took place onboard the USS Midway Museum and they rolled out the red carpet. Once the guests arrived and had time to enjoy themselves on the flight deck, the V.I.P.s left the special V.I.P. sponson area and made a grand entrance riding up on the L3 (the elevator used to haul planes from the hangar bay to the flight deck) with a Marine marching band playing the theme to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Everyone then took their seats at the tables, enjoyed a fancy dinner (the dessert had cookies shaped like the moon and stars), and watched a flyover of the International Space Station and the docked Discovery Shuttle with San Diegan Rick Sturckow on board. The V.I.P.s then went on the stage and received their American Patriot Award presented by the USS Midway. To finish the night, fireworks shot off of the carrier’s tower. A spectacular way to end a great event.
Both events went really well and I know everyone in attendance enjoyed themselves while honoring the accomplishments of these men. Over 40 years later they still inspire us.
You can check out photos taken both nights on our Flickr page by clicking here.