July 3, 2019 / Modified jul 3, 2019 3:01 p.m.

Commemorating 50 years since the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

A special preview screening and panel discussion of the new American Experience film, Chasing the Moon

A panel discussion at the Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium with guest experts about the University of Arizona’s role in Apollo 11, and current lunar research.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary year of the Apollo 11 moon landing, AZPM and Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium presented a special preview screening and panel discussion of the new American Experience film, Chasing the Moon to members of the Tucson community on June 30.

The three-part series, produced and directed by Robert Stone, explores the 10-year odyssey to land a man on the moon, from its earliest beginnings to the monumental achievement of the first lunar landing of Apollo 11 in 1969, and beyond. Using footage from previously overlooked and lost archival material, much of which has never before been seen by the public, the film features a diverse cast of characters who played key roles in these historic events. Tune in for the premiere episode on July 8 at 8 p.m. on PBS 6. 

After the preview, Arizona Public Media science producer Vanessa Barchfield moderated a panel discussion with guest experts Lynn Carter, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Planetary Sciences; Jason Davis, Digital Editor of The Planetary Society and Director of Desert Moon, a documentary about the University of Arizona’s role in the Space Race; and William K. Hartmann, Senior Scientist Emeritus, Planetary Science Institute - Tucson to highlight the University of Arizona’s role in Apollo 11 and its current lunar research.

During the discussion, Dr. Hartmann recalled his arrival at the University in 1961 as a graduate assistant to Gerard Kuiper, founder of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Hartmann spoke of his involvement in mapping the moon’s surface and how elements of that work were used by the U.S. Geological Survey for the Apollo 11 astronauts’ training in Flagstaff. “Arizona has its fingerprints all over the Apollo missions,” said Hartmann. And in regards to being a part of the century-defining achievement, “I had a real sense that we were working on something of global importance.”

Dr. Carter shared insight on her work with using radars to explore the sub-surface of the moon and whether or not she thinks we will ever return. “I am hopeful that we will go back, I think it is a stepping stone if we want to go anyplace else just to remind ourselves how to travel in space. I talk to my students about the fact that I think this is going to happen again and it will probably be an international thing because you need the resources to do it.”

In his film “Desert Moon” Davis explores how Southern Arizona was involved with the early days of the lunar exploration program, and as part of the panel he provided an added historical perspective based on the research and stories he gathered during production of the film. “There were just so many stories from the participants who were here and saw some of that first hand. I was surprised once I started looking into it and doing the research about how many aspects the University [of Arizona] did play in the space race.”   The full panel discussion is available to view on AZPM’s digital platform, UA Channel. Additionally, celebrate 100 years of space research, exploration, and discovery at the University of Arizona with five complete documentaries are available to watch online. American Experience: Chasing the Moon premieres on July 8 at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 or will be available to stream.

PBS’ Summer of Space takes off this month. The multi-platform broadcast event is anchored by Chasing the Moon and includes new science and history programs from NOVA, Antiques Roadshow and PBS Kids. For more information about the individual programs, go to PBS.org/summerofspace, tune in or stream and follow the conversation at #SummerOfSpacePBS.

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