Out Of This World!

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin as photographed by Neil Armstrong.

July 20, 2019 will mark 50 years since Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind” as he and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the moon during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.

To celebrate, the Montauk Observatory and Stony Brook University are teaming up to provide a free, public program taking place at the Avram Theater at Stony Brook Southampton on Saturday, July 20, from 1 to 6 PM.

“Montauk Observatory is so very pleased to again partner with Stony Brook University to present a program that commemorates such an important historic event,” said Donna McCormick, the observatory’s executive director. “While it’s unfortunate that it’s been 50 years since we’ve had a lunar landing, the Apollo missions taught us so very much and paved the way for subsequent study of the moon. I’m sure we can soon look forward to another manned lunar landing, as well as use of the moon as a gateway to the further exploration of space.”

The event will be highlighted by a screening of Todd Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” followed by a Q&A with production team leader, Ben Feist. Feist currently serves as NASA Spaceflight Data Manager and Researcher, where his job is to “help design systems that help organize the massive amount of information that’s gathered on a modern spaceflight mission.” As a matter of fact, he noted that NASA expects to make a return landing on the moon in 2024 through the Artemis program.

As the official NASA government website states, Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology, “will send the first woman and the next man to the moon.”

However, in order to do that, there is a great need for computer systems that process information in real time as the crew is on board. “How do you give a crew member a point of view that will allow them to triage information in real time? And that’s what I’m working on now,” Feist said. “The thought there is that we need to learn how to stay on the moon and live long-term off of Earth. And if we can solve some of those problems, the moon is a great staging area, it’s very close by.”

As we envision a future for lunar landings, and overall space exploration, it is critical to understand and celebrate our historic past. Raymond LeCann was part of the Grumman Aircraft Engineering team where he worked at the Lunar Excursion Model Data Reduction Room in Bethpage 50 years ago, where all the tests took place as things were being built. “My job was to take the data that was being processed and give it to the engineers while they were designing the LEM,” LeCann said. “To be honest with you, we were all more worried than anything else. It wasn’t obvious that we were going to be able to get them back.”

LeCann will head the Grumman round table: behind-the-scenes stories about Grumman and the Apollo 11 project. Alongside him will be Joseph Bevilacqua, design engineer in the LEM Crew and Equipment Integration Division, who met with the astronauts; Leon Gurinsky, rocket scientist who worked on the LEM propulsion systems; Anthony Mascolo, Cockpit Design Leader who was responsible for fireproofing the cockpit and suits; and Edward Whitman, an engineer that worked on communications between the LEM and the Command Service Module.

The 50th anniversary celebration will additionally include a lecture by Stony Brook University Professor Timothy Glotch as he discusses “50 years of Lunar Science,” followed by an appearance of Assemblyman Fred Thiele as he presents each member of Grumman with a New York State Citation acknowledging their contributions to the Apollo 11 program.

View more at www.montaukobservatory.com.

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