NASA Celebrates 45th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

A boot print on the moon
An artist's concept of a boot print on the moon and Mars. (Image credit: NASA)

On July 20, 1969, the world watched as Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the Eagle and stepped outside onto a barren lunar landscape. Buzz Aldrin followed him out the door and they became the first humans to ever walk on the moon. All the while, their third crewmate, Michael Collins, sat in a lonely orbit around moon in the Columbia command module.

The three Apollo 11 astronauts launched toward the moon on July 16, 1969, and returned heroes in a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on July 24. Only 10 more people would ever put their boots on powdery moon dirt (said to smell like gunpowder), and no humans have returned since Apollo 17 blasted off the lunar surface on December 14, 1972.

July 20, 2014 will mark the 45th anniversary of the first moonwalk. NASA has planned a slew of events to reflect on the historic landing and look ahead to the future of space exploration. [NASA's Historic Apollo 11 Moon Landing in Pictures]

Here's a sampling of events hosted by NASA and other space-minded organizations that you can participate in virtually or in person in the coming days:

Friday, July 18

  • At 1:30 p.m. EDT (1530 GMT), Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman will be live on NASA TV from the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, to talk about the future of space exploration. Reid Wiseman, a NASA astronaut who is currently living (and prolifically tweeting) on the International Space Station, will participate from orbit.
  • At 3:00 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT), moonwalker Buzz Aldrin will be in conversation with NASA astronaut Mike Massimino at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. The event is part of the Intrepid Space and Science Festival, which takes place from Thursday (July 17) to Sunday (July 20).

Sunday, July 20

  • Starting at 8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT), the Slooh Community Observatory will broadcast high-definition footage of the waning crescent moon from Dubai while astronomers and special guests talk about little-known Apollo stories and debunk conspiracy theories about the landing. Participants will include filmmaker Duncan Copp, who has produced and directed documentaries about the Apollo program, and science journalist Andrew Chaikin, whose book "A  Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts" inspired an HBO miniseries co-produced by Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.

Monday, July 21

  • At 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT), NASA TV will broadcast the renaming ceremony of the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which processed and tested the command, service and lunar modules during the Apollo program. The building will be named for Armstrong, who died in 2012. Participants will include NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Armstrong's Apollo 11 crewmates, Collins and Aldrin.

Thursday, July 24

  • At 6:00 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT), the space agency will tap into the geekery of Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, with a panel called NASA's Next Giant Leap. The discussion will be moderated by actor Seth Green and will feature Aldrin, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green, "Mohawk Guy" Bobak Ferdowsi, and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday (July 17) to correct the time for Aldrin's appearance at the Intrepid on Friday (July 18).

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Megan Gannon Contributing Writer

Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity on a Zero Gravity Corp. to follow students sparking weightless fires for science. Follow her on Twitter for her latest project.