Back to the Future

For anyone who was around to witness the Apollo 11 lunar landing forty years ago on this date, the moment was unforgettable – a physical and visual embodiment of the nation’s collective desire to, well, fly to the moon. And the whole Neil Armstrong “giant step for mankind” sensibility was, and is, an accurate one, at least according to Dr. Steve Lee, curator of planetary science at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

“It set us on the course for everything we’ve done since then,” he says. “Computer technology, microelectronics, modern medical science – they all had roots back in those days. It put a fire under us politically, by showing us we could do anything we set our minds to do.” That said, Lee will preside today at The Apollo Legacy: The Moon and Beyond, a celebration of Apollo 11’s fortieth anniversary that includes a live NASA panel discussion simulcast from the Newseum in Washington D.C. (and featuring a quartet of astronauts and Laurie Lashin of the Goddard Space Flight Center).

Lee sees the landmark occasion as a stepping-off point for our eventual return to the moon, possibly around 2020. And there’s a place for anyone, he thinks, in that future push. “In the museum, we like to say that it’s like a pyramid of hundreds of thousands of people involved – not just the astronauts, who are the most visible. For students coming up now, there are countless places where they could fit into the space program.”

Today’s Apollo 11 presentation, which begins at 10 a.m. in Ricketson Auditorium at the museum, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, is free to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. And, Lee notes, it’s likely the first in a series of space-program anniversary fetes: “We’ll be ramping up our memories and looking forward to the future.” For details, go to or call 303-322-7009.
Mon., July 20, 10 a.m., 2009