Moon Landing 50th Anniversary

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

It's the only portion of the historic Apollo 11 spacecraft to return to Earth after taking humans to the moon, and it's now in Cincinnati for a limited time.

As a college sophomore, I knew exactly what the Apollo astronauts would find when they arrived on the moon: a desolate rockscape, craters shining white in reflected earthglow — and a big, black monolith.

Stanley Kubrick showed us all of that in the top-grossing movie of 1968 — 2001: A Space Odyssey — a full 15 months before Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind. And even Kubrick was late to the party: Moviegoers had been heading moonward from pretty much the moment there were filmmakers to lead the way.

This story is part of the StoryCorps series of conversations.

A half-century ago, America's dreams were realized in space. The power of U.S. innovation and spirit took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon and back.

That mission was possible because of a diverse team of engineers, astronauts and mathematicians. It was also possible thanks to the help of one 10-year-old boy who was in the right place at the right time.

buzz aldrin
Courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Fifty years ago this month, the world watched as the Apollo 11 lunar module, nicknamed the "Eagle," landed on the moon and Commander Neil Armstrong and Col. Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin stepped onto the surface of the moon. 

Look at a picture of the Apollo 11 launch and you'll probably notice the rocket's pointed tip and the fire coming from the five giant engines in the first stage of the 36-story-tall Saturn V rocket.

What you might miss is arguably the most important part of the entire thing: the command module.

Don't see the video above? Click here.

When astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon 50 years ago, it was a giant leap for functional fashion.

The spacesuit he wore was an unprecedented blend of technology and tailoring.

"The suit itself is an engineering marvel," says Malcolm Collum, the chief conservator for the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. "Every single thing on here is a specific function. It is engineered to the last little detail."

neil armstrong Wapakoneta
AP

To most of the world, the late Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, nearly 50 years ago.

Looking Up continues celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, this time by learning more about the entire Apollo mission with Nancy Atkinson, a writer for Universe Today and author of the new book, Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Mission.

As the world prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we go to the hometown of celebrated Astronaut Neil Armstrong so that Dean Regas and Anna Hehman can talk with Dante Cenouri, executive director of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

Listen to their conversation by hitting the play button above. 

Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES)

The historic command module that took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon and back in July 1969 is coming to Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Museum Center will be the fifth and final stop for Columbia and the Smithsonian's traveling exhibition "Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission."

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Great American Ball Park will be one of 15 stadiums across the country to host a replica of Neil Armstrong's space suit. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is sponsoring Apollo in the Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

The Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) has a new permanent exhibit celebrating the first man to walk on the moon, an astronaut who lived for much of his life in Lebanon and Indian Hill. The Neil Armstrong Space Exploration Gallery features unique artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission.