To mark the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon July 20, the Great Lakes Science Center is holding several special events leading up to and extending beyond that anniversary date. Photograph of Buzz Aldrin courtesy of MacGillivray Freeman Films


“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard…because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” – President John F. Kennedy, Sept. 12, 1962.

On the evening of July 20, 1969, Ohioan Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, calling it “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The most historic event of its generation, the moon landing was not only a tribute to American will and ingenuity, it was proof positive that the U.S.A. and NASA had, in fact, won the space race.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the event, the Great Lakes Science Center is holding several events leading up to and extending beyond July 20. The Center’s CEO, Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen, feels the anniversary is a time for reflection on a mission accomplished as well as anticipation of NASA’s new program to return to the moon.

“We want to honor the history of this event, get across how bold and visionary a moonshot is and talk about how NASA is focusing on going back to the moon,” said Ellenbogen. “We want to make sure this anniversary touches all of our programs.”

As the site of the NASA Glenn Visitors Center, the Science Center is uniquely positioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Through programs and camps, the Center encourages interest in STEM careers. “Northeast Ohio is a STEM powerhouse,” said Ellenbogen. “We’re going to see great things from our students – this is an opportunity for them to find out what their moonshot will be.”

Visitors will be able to experience the moon landing in all of its glory during screenings of “Apollo 11: First Steps” at the Center’s DOME Theater. The film of the Apollo 11 mission is an immersive cinematic experience documenting the preparation, liftoff, landing and return of the historic mission with newly discovered, never before seen 70 mm footage and audio recordings. The images and audio are heightened by the DOME Theater’s 79-foot tall screen and 11,600 watts of digital sound. Daily screenings are 3 p.m. all this month, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in July and 3 p.m. throughout August.

From July 19-20, the Center will present a series of special events, including programming featuring the Glenn Center’s Graphics and Visualization Lab and actual Apollo mission artifacts. Visitors will have an opportunity to learn more about the Apollo capsule, lunar missions and properties of the moon at the Glenn Visitors Center gallery.

A Chemistry and Combustion Show will bring chemistry to life in a high-energy presentation of color and combustion. A Lift Off Big Science Show will explore the forces and fuel that made landing on the moon possible.

A Rocket Lab Challenge will be held from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Wintergarden outside on the harbor, weather permitting. Visitors can challenge friends and family to engineer the best rocket and test it using high-powered launchers. A Vacuum of Space Cart Activity will allow visitors to learn how the earth’s atmosphere compares to space and what it would be like to live on another planet.

A Picture Yourself in Space activity enables visitors to pose for the camera as an astronaut for a souvenir photo to take home.

The Cuyahoga County Public Library Speaker Series will help mark the anniversary with special presentations about the Apollo 11 mission hosted by a Science Center STEM educator. Library events will be held at the Bay Village (July 6), North Royalton (July 7), Gates Mills (July 12), Berea (July 13), Brecksville (July 18), Mayfield (July 20) and Chagrin Falls (Aug. 21) branches.

For more information on any of the 50th anniversary programs, visit