The Apollo 50th Gala and After-Party an Epic Celebration of the Launch of Apollo 11 from Florida’s Space Coast on July 16, 1969
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – More than 500 guests from across the globe gathered with space legends and celebrities at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) on July 16 for the iconic Apollo 50th Gala and After-Party presented by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC). The sold-out, star-studded event honored the 400,000 men and women who made the historic Apollo 11 mission one of the great accomplishments of mankind. Proceeds from the event will benefit expansion of K-12 programs of the Aldrin Family Foundation (AFF) and an endowed, university-level scholarship for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) … all to champion a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) educated workforce.
“Space unites us in a way that nothing else can,” said Dr. Andrew Aldrin, president of Aldrin Family Foundation. “The unforgettable Apollo 11 mission was a moment in time when the world came together to witness and celebrate the seemingly impossible. What an honor it was to gather with so many of the legends that made that historic mission possible and raise valuable funds to ensure we continue making giant leaps in our work in education through innovative STEAM-based programs.”
The Apollo 50th Gala was held under the massive Saturn V rocket at the transformed Apollo Saturn V Center at KSCVC. With a theme of “Space for a Better World,” guests were awed by the stories of legends of the Apollo program. The evening celebrated historic and recent accomplishments with inspiring speeches, special tributes and awards to several unsung heroes, and multi-media content highlighting how Planet Earth has benefitted from man’s giant leaps in technology and engineering over the last 50 years.
Northrop Grumman, a significant contributor to the Apollo program, came onboard early in the Apollo 50th Gala planning as the title sponsor. Its heritage companies played vital roles in the success of the historic Apollo Moon landings, most notably, design, assembly, integration and testing of the famed lunar lander.
“We are proud of our legacy of contributions to one of the world’s finest technological achievements – the Moon landing,” said Charles Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. “What an honor it was to be a part of an event that celebrated all of those accomplishments, while helping to ensure we have the necessary education programs in place to inspire our next generation of explorers.”
Highlights from the evening included:
- Panel discussion with Apollo astronaut legends Michael Collins (Apollo 11), Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) and Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9), along with Apollo Flight Director Gerry Griffin. Professor Brian Cox served as moderator. Thanks to sponsor Cisco Systems, Inc., the evening included remote contributors participating via Cisco Webex software. These included the original Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station engineers in Australia, who helped transmit the signal to the world of the first steps on the Moon on July 20, 1969, as well as former crew members from the USS Hornet, who helped recover the crew of Apollo 11 after their splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.
- Tributes were made to several individuals who are pioneering space and inspiring the next-generation workforce:
- Innovation Award Recipient: David Thompson, founder, president and CEO of Orbital Sciences Corporation (later known as Orbital ATK), the first company to air-launch an orbital vehicle, the Pegasus.
- Education Award Recipient: Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, founding chairman of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, established in 1986 following the Space Shuttle Challenger accident to continue the legacy of the Challenger crew.
- Pioneer Award Recipient: JoAnn Morgan, first female engineer at NASA Kennedy Space Center and the only woman in the firing room during the launch of Apollo 11.
- Gala emcee and NBC TODAY Show co-host and weatherman Al Roker kept the evening moving with introductions to speakers, including Rick Armstrong, who gave a special tribute to his late father Neil Armstrong as his son Bryce Armstrong and girlfriend Mary Sharon sat nearby. Astrophysicist, author and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson celebrated his 60th birthday at the gala and gave remarks about 60 years of NASA and its impact on his life. Roker also cued up a special tribute to several unsung heroes of Apollo, including Edward Dwight, a former test pilot who was hand-picked by President Kennedy’s administration in 1961 to become the first African-American astronaut.
- An epic live performance by iconic British band, Duran Duran, and renowned artist duo Studio Drift, whose cutting-edge art performances integrate hundreds of Intel® Shooting StarTM drones. Gala guests were joined by thousands concert ticket holders in the beautifully lit Rocket Garden at KSCVC.
- Live and silent auctions with one-of-a-kind space memorabilia, including a signed watercolor painting by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins.
- Premiere eyewear company, Rēvo, staged a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity prior to the Gala with astronauts Mike Collins, Charlie Duke and Rusty Schweikart and Apollo flight director Gerry Griffin, alongside Nancy Conrad, widow of late Apollo 12 astronaut Pete Conrad and founder of the Conrad Foundation.
- The star-studded guest list also included: Dorothy Duke (wife of Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke); Nancy Ramsey and Rusty Schweickart, Jr. (wife and son of Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart); Jan Aldrin (daughter of Buzz Aldrin) and her husband Bruce Hanifan; Kate Collins and Ann Collins Star (daughters of Michael Collins); Jack Roosa and Rosemary Roosa (son and daughter of Apollo astronaut Stu Roosa) and granddaughter Danielle; Robert (Bob) Cabana (Shuttle astronaut and director at NASA KSC); Shuttle astronauts Mark Kelly (with wife former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords), Julie Payette, Charlie Precourt, Robert Curbeam, Rick Mastracchio, Frank Culbertson, Leland Melvin and Winston Scott; and actors James Lafferty, Patrick J. Adams, Colin O’Donaghue and Jake McDorman.
The out-of-this-world celebration would not have been possible without the support of additional sponsors, including Delaware North Corporation, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Cisco Webex and OAPV.
For more information about the event, visit www.apollo50thgala.com.
About the Aldrin Family Foundation
The Aldrin Family Foundation (AFF) strives to cultivate the next generation of space leaders, entrepreneurs and explorers who will extend human habitation beyond the Earth to the Moon and Mars. AFF’s STEAM-based educational tools, curriculum and programs span from a child’s first classroom experience through graduate school and professional programs. This vertical pathway unites explorers at all levels to learn from each other’s vision for space, ultimately creating the first generation of Martians. For more information, visit www.aldrinfoundation.org.
About the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides annually more than 50 scholarships to the brightest and most talented college students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It was formed in 1984 by heroes from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs. Their goal was simple – to use their experience and credibility to encourage student pursuit of advanced education and scientific endeavors to keep America on the leading edge of technology. Today, these heroes, along with top industry leaders, educational institutions and individuals, have joined the cause. ASF Scholars not only honor the legacy of America’s pioneering astronauts, but continue their passion for knowledge, discovery and progress in multiple industries. For more information, visit www.astronautscholarship.org.