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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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This still from a Boeing video shows nearly 5,000 model rockets launching from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home of Space Camp, in pursuit of a Guinness World Record on July 16, 2019, the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo 11 moon launch.

This still from a Boeing video shows nearly 5,000 model rockets launching from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home of Space Camp, in pursuit of a Guinness World Record on July 16, 2019, the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo 11 moon launch. (Image credit: Boeing)
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Jody Singer (far right) director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, celebrates as thousands of model rockets launch at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama on July 16, 2019. Also looking on (from left) are retired Marshall engineer Brooks Moore, Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden and Space Camp veteran Lillian Duran.

Jody Singer (far right) director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, celebrates as thousands of model rockets launch at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama on July 16, 2019. Also looking on (from left) are retired Marshall engineer Brooks Moore, Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden and Space Camp veteran Lillian Duran. (Image credit: NASA/Emmett Given)
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Space Camp participants in yellow and nearly 2,500 onlookers await the launch of 5,000 model rockets on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission launch at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama on July 16, 2019.

Space Camp participants in yellow and nearly 2,500 onlookers await the launch of 5,000 model rockets on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission launch at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama on July 16, 2019. (Image credit: Ernesto Quinteros)
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Ernesto Quinteros (left) and his son Lucas, 11, 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.

Ernesto Quinteros (left) and his son Lucas, 11, 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)

"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 Space.com 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 AL.com. 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, AL.com reported.

Organizers told AL.com 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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