REXBURG — This year marks the 50th anniversary of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous landing on the moon. It also marks the third annual Brigham Young University-Idaho Astrofest.
To help honor the first landing on the moon, the Brigham Young University physics department and a NASA Solar Ambassador are teaming up to present the aptly named “Astrofest 2019: 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing.”
The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday at the Romney Building and also outside on the Spori Quad. The event is free and open to anyone interested in the Final Frontier.
“We’ll have planetarium shows, some hands-on activities and a link to a virtual realty moon walk. A lot of it is focused on the moon and the 50th lunar landing. The planetarium will show two different ones focusing on that 50th anniversary,” said NASA Solar Ambassador Natalie MacBeth.
MacBeth also works as an administrative assistant with the school’s Design and Construction Management Department. She recently graduated with a degree in biology and chemistry education. Her emphasis is on STEM education.
“This is my opportunity to do outreach for STEM education for NASA and to help the community see the cool things that NASA has going on,” she said.
MacBeth noted that NASA has plans to return man to the moon – permanently.
“They just announced they’re going to the moon in 2024, and they’re going to stay. They are full guns going to mars and taking a man to Mars,” she said. “There is a Mars Rover Mission that’s planned next year. They’ll be taking a helicopter to Mars — a mini helicopter — it’s an unmanned helicopter. They have a mission planned every two years to Mars. Their plan is to send a man to Mars.”
Meanwhile back here in Rexburg, Astrofest officials plan to show films at BYU-Idaho’s planetarium about space travel.
BYU-Idaho physics Professor Steve McNeil reported that two half hour films called “CapCom-Go” and “The Dawn of the Space Age” will be presented throughout the event at the planetarium. McNeil also teaches astronomy and serves as the school’s planetarium director.
“The CapCom-Go was language they used during the Apollo 11 moon landing,” he said. “The Dawn of the Space Age was about the space race between us and the Soviet Union in terms of getting to the moon first.”
In July 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and Buzz Aldrin flew on the Apollo 11 mission toward the moon, reported NASA on its webpage.
“Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon. They landed on the moon in the Lunar Module. It was called the Eagle. Collins stayed in orbit around the moon. He did experiments and took pictures,” it said.
Armstrong and Aldrin planted a United States flag on the moon as well as a plaque that reads “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.”
BYU-Idaho wanted to celebrate the Apollo 11 mission in conjunction with its third annual Astrofest, MacBeth said.
“We’ll have a commemorative patch for the kids participating. It’s kind of our theme because of that Apollo 11 mission,” she said.
At 11 a.m., BYU-Idaho Physics Professor Ryan Neilson will offer a balloon presentation called “Reach for the Sky! High Altitude Balloon Experiences.”
“He’ll be talking about his high altitude balloon research team. They launch balloons over 100,000 feet. They put different research equipment on there to study the highest level of our atmosphere,” McNeil said.
Following Neilson’s presentation, Physics Professor Brian Tonks will present “How the Apollo Moon Landings Shaped our Understanding of the Moon’s Origins.” To find out how it did so, you’ll have to attend the event.
During the event, solar telescopes will be made available for visitors to look through. There will also be a meteorite hunt for youth.
“We’ll have a little meteorite discovery hunt where kids can take home a real meteorite,” McNeil said.
Visitors may also get their own 3D printing of metal rocket engines. They’ll get a chance to make Ultra Violet bead bracelets and have an opportunity play in an “Augmented Realty Sandbox.” There will also be space-themed face painting, engineering challenges, rocket launching and virtual realty goggles where visitors may get a 360-degree view of the moon.
One class to be offered is called “Moon phases Oreo Cookies” where Oreos, as the name implies, will be used to show the different phases of the moon.
Visitors will also get to make Solar System Art. By using black card stock, they’ll use pastel chalk to draw planets and stars while learning shadowing techniques from an instructor.
During the Lunar Crater Formation Activity, visitors will learn about the moon’s surface by using flour, cocoa powder and by dropping various small objects from different heights onto the mix to simulate meteorites hitting and forming craters.
Rocket builders are encouraged to bring their rockets to be judged during the “Estes Rocket Competition.” At 2 p.m., the rockets will be launched with A8-3 engines at the Spori Quad.
“People can build their own rockets, bring them or put them on display,” MacBeth said.
MacBeth said she loves showcasing what the physics department has to offer residents.
“I just love the excitement and enthusiasm for science. It’s having everybody sharing that excitement,” she said.
McNeil said the expectation is that Astrofest will encourage residents to delve more into what the Final Frontier has to offer.
“We hope people will take the time to come out to enjoy the wonders of our universe. By coming to the Astrofest, they’ll get a little taste for it,” he said.
For more information on the upcoming event, visit https://www.byui.edu/planetarium/astrofest-2019. For more information on the Apollo II mission visit https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/first-person-on-moon.html.