Watch Space Camp Launch Nearly 5,000 Model Rockets for Apollo 11 (and Seek a World Record)

Call it one giant leap for model rocketry.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo 11 launch to the moon Tuesday (July 16), the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama(home of Space Camp) succeeded in sending aloft nearly 5,000 model rockets at the exact moment Apollo 11 lifted off decades ago — 8:32 a.m. local time (9:32 a.m. EDT or 1332 GMT) on Monday (July 16).

This may be a record-breaking attempt, although it will take the Guinness Book of World Records between 12 to 16 weeks to certify the results, representatives said. In the meantime, the 2,500 or so people in attendance said they were thrilled to watch the fireworks.

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"I didn't know what to expect, but seeing 5,000 rockets timed with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch was awesome," participant Lucas Quinteros, 11, of South Orange, New Jersey, told in an email. He's attending Space Camp at the Space & Rocket Center this week, just in time to celebrate Apollo 11 with NASA.

"I fondly remember this event in my childhood, the feeling of excitement and optimism for the future," added Ernesto Quinteros, father of Lucas and Chief Design Officer for Johnson & Johnson. "I wanted to share this with my son, so we made plans last year to attend this historical reenactment at Space Camp."

Ernesto Quinteros (left) and his son Lucas, 11, of South Orange, New Jersey pose for a photo at Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where officials launched nearly 5,000 rockets on July 16 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission launch in 1969. (Image credit: Ernesto Quinteros)

The launch attracted hundreds of Space Camp students bedecked in yellow T-shirts, according to Also in attendance was Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center director Jody Singer and Margrit von Braun (daughter of Wernher von Braun, chief designer of the Saturn V moon rocket).

"He would be thrilled," von Braun said about what her father would have thought of the event, reported.

Organizers told that 77 of the rockets did not launch, meaning that the group achieved a success rate of better than 98 percent. The 4,923 that flew do exceed the previous winning threshold of 4,231 model rockets launched in summer 2018 at Teylingen College in the Netherlands.

However, the rocket launches have to pass a few requirements by Guinness to verify the record —such as using commercially available rockets built to basic manufacturer guidelines, and verifying that the models flew higher than 100 feet (30 meters). A camera-mounted weather balloon and drones were stationed at that altitude to verify the number of rockets passing that mark.

The model rocket launch is just one of many celebrations across the United States, and around the world, to mark the Apollo 11 moon mission by NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, with Collins remaining in orbit aboard Apollo 11's command module. All three men returned to Earth on July 24, 1969.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: