Golden anniversaries are a big deal for any occasion.
But for a historic, humanity-changing event like man’s first walk on the moon, the 2019 celebration of Apollo 11 in the works for Brevard County — the first leg in the glorious Earth-to-moon saga — it’s huge.
“The Space Coast will once again capture the world’s attention, as we celebrate this historic anniversary and a true crowning achievement of our space exploration efforts as a country,” said Jennifer Sugarman, president and CEO of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Planning already is in full swing for a five-day series of events running from July 16, the date Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off from Kennedy Space Center atop a Saturn V rocket, through July 20, when the Eagle landed and Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on lunar surface.
Preliminary ideas include an astronaut parade through Cocoa Beach in Corvettes, seminars, a pub crawl and fireworks before culminating in a black-tie gala fundraiser at KSC.
Expect hotel rooms to book quickly and restaurants near KSC and Cocoa Beach to be hectic, as the global spotlight shines again on the Space Coast, particularly on the launch day anniversary.
But as excitement builds, a looming question is what role will be played by Aldrin, the second man on the moon, who is involved in a legal dispute with his family and nonprofit foundation.
The 88-year-old Satellite Beach resident declined to attend his gala July 21 at KSC that benefited the foundation bearing his name, Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation, and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, raising money for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education initiatives. He cited ongoing legal issues and a disagreement about the foundation’s focus.
“I formed ShareSpace Foundation in 1998 for the promotion of individual space voyagers,” Aldrin said in a statement provided to FLORIDA TODAY. “However, the foundation is, in my view, now being used to promote quite different objectives.”
At the gala and in a statement that followed, two of Aldrin’s children, Andrew and Jan, acknowledged disappointment about their father’s absence.
“But we remain committed to honoring his legacy as a true American hero through the important work of our family foundation,” they said in a statement. “He is still a part of the foundation and its board of directors. We look forward to continuing our work together in the future.”
Aldrin’s children recently asked a court to grant them legal guardianship of their father, who they say has shown signs of dementia.
Buzz Aldrin, in turn, sued Andrew, Jan and a longtime business manager, alleging fraud and abuse.
A look back at the greatest moments of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. NASA
Buzz Aldrin is working with a new management team and is promoting plans to start a new Human Spaceflight Institute based in Houston, separate from the Aldrin Space Institute he established at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.
No one knows how long the legal issues will take to resolve, and whether they may still hang over 50th-anniversary celebrations. Linn LeBlanc, chief operating officer of the recently formed Buzz Aldrin Ventures, said a schedule of events that Aldrin plans to participate in would be posted online in the months ahead.
Local anniversary organizers say Aldrin’s involvement or not next year isn’t an issue yet.
“We haven’t even thought about that yet,” said Bonnie King, deputy director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism. “Right now, we’re just trying to put together the infrastructure and the plan.”
King is partnering with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Aldrin Family Foundation on the initial planning, with other groups expected to join over time.
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She said celebrations will not only honor past achievements, but focus on the future of human space exploration, and will involve current astronauts and shuttle-era astronauts, in addition to the Apollo legends.
The events surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission are certain to boost the local tourism sector, said Puneet “PK” Kapur, chairman of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council.
“That will be a great thing,” said Kapur, who is general manager of the 84-room Holiday inn Express and Suites in Palm Bay.
But, as July already is a strong month for tourism, Kapur said it could mean some visitors to the Apollo 11 events on the Space Coast will be staying in hotels in the Orlando or Daytona Beach area because they can’t find a room in Brevard County.
Beyond space luminaries, the Space Coast is certain to attract some big names from Hollywood and the Beltway, maybe even from the White House.
But it also will be competing with celebrations being planned across the country and the world, all around the same time and apparently without much coordination so far.
The White House may host a special recognition of its own, as it has for previous anniversaries.
Places with major NASA presences, including Houston — the home of Mission Control and the astronaut corps — and Huntsville, Alabama, will host major events.
Apollo 11’s command module haven’t been seen in 40 years. And in a matter of months, they will be available online for the world to see for free.
In addition, the Apollo 11 mission’s Columbia command module is on a cross-country tour (now at a stop in St. Louis) that by anniversary time will end up at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum will unveil a display of Armstrong’s spacesuit, while Johnson Space Center is restoring its historic Mission Control Center. The U.S. Mint will issue coins commemorating Apollo 11.
NASA is still planning its own lineup, with momentum expected to pick up after the space agency celebrates its 60th birthday this Oct. 1.
“Even if the unfortunate legal situation wasn’t occurring with Buzz right now, there are going to be numerous events, all wanting the two surviving members of the Apollo 11 crew to take part during July of 2019,” said Robert Pearlman, editor of CollectSpace.com and an expert in space history and memorabilia. (Armstrong died in 2012.)
“So the idea that (Aldrin) doesn’t show up in one place or another, I wouldn’t look at as a snub, but more just that this is going to be a very busy season for them,” Pearlman said.
Aldrin has spoken publicly about his desire to harness the excitement generated by Apollo 11’s golden anniversary to ignite public interest and discussions about how to push exploration forward. His own focus is on getting humans to Mars.
“A lot can change in a year, so I wouldn’t count anything out at this point,” Pearlman said. “Hopefully, by the time July 2019 rolls around, the focus is on celebrating the crew members, not necessarily focusing on their personal lives.”
Government editor Dave Berman contributed to this report. Contact Price at 321-242-3658 or firstname.lastname@example.org. https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2018/07/23/apollo-50th-celebration-plans-heck-event-space-coast/818500002/