Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

College pays homage to Neil Armstrong, rich history of space exploration

Purdue Engineering, and its unique connection to first man on the moon and alumnus Neil Armstrong, played a key role in the campus-wide Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemoration July 18-20.

The College kicked off the monumental weekend on July 18 with the announcement of the Purdue Engineering Initiative in Cislunar Space, an effort that will provide national leadership in the development of cislunar capabilities and advance the space-based economy through collaboration with industry, academia, and government agencies.

With the initiative, “Purdue re-affirms its commitment to contribute to innovate research, to enrich talent, and to enable all armies in an ever growing ecosystem,” said Mung Chiang, the John A. Edwardson Dean of the College of Engineering, when addressing an audience gathered in the Kurz Atrium at Armstrong Hall. “We have unique strengths in mission design and propulsion to systems engineering and extra-terrestrial habitats. Part of our responsibility as a proud land-grand university in the state of Indiana is to contribute in all ways we can to the country and to the world. We are only getting started.”

Children pose for a picture with an astronaut.

The weekend featured events for all ages, including K-12 STEM activities, walking tours, and an F100-F flyover that made two passes of Armstrong Hall. Armstrong flew this model as a test pilot, and the aircraft is the only known operational model.

“I thought it was a great atmosphere, despite the hot day. There were people from all walks of life. It was a turnback to childhood when we watched the events on a small black and white television. It was a nostalgic trip, and that’s why it resonated,” said Alan Karpick, publisher of Gold and Black Illustrated.

The F100-F flyover passed by Neil Armstrong Hall twice.

Social media lively with comments

From Facebook:

“Its awesome that Neil Armstrong was the 1st man to walk on the moon on July 20th, 1969. He was able to Boiler Up and Hammer Down that day. Im proud he was a Purdue Engineering School alum. And I and my Purdue University friends are too. That's great.” — Kevin Kirchgessne

“So proud to be a Boilermaker! Neil Armstrong is one of my heroes!” — Julie O’Keefe Hildebran

“Great insights and discussion from inside perspectives!” — Tirtha Dhakhwa

From Twitter:

“‘Armstrong is on the Moon! Neil Armstrong, a thirty-eight-year-old American, standing on the surface of the Moon! On this July twentieth, nineteen hundred and sixty-nine.’ Millions heard Walter Cronkite announce these words with tears in his eyes, exactly 50 years ago.” — NASA History Office @NASAhistory July 20

“CELEBRATING 50 YEARS AFTER THE LANDING ON THE MOON TODAY! Thank you Humankind! Thank you NASA! Dedicated to Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) - Aeronautical Engineering, PURDUE UNIVERSITY, IN. Thank you Purdue, my own alma mater.” — Road Scholar Music @roadscholarmuso July 19

“It was great to have @AstroMCollins, @TheRealBuzz, and the family of Neil Armstrong at the White House in honor of #Apollo50” — The White House @WhiteHouse

“This is Neil Armstrong (the first human to set foot on the moon) in his Purdue University Marching Band uniform. Neil was an engineering major and played baritone. If a person who went to the moon had time to play in the band you do too. Be like Neil - join marching band.” — Blake HS Music @BengalsMusic July 20

Other events hosted by the College to commemorate the momentous event:

  • Keynote speaker Gene Kranz, Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 flight director, presented Go or No-Go: The Untold Story of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, which drew a sold-out crowd at Loeb Playhouse and placed overflow attendees in two large rooms to watch a livestream of the talk. Kranz narrated his experience much like a countdown, detailing all of the thoughts running though his mind as he directed operations of the lunar module, technical issues, and recounting how people in the room reacted. Kranz entertained questions for 30 minutes after his talk.

    Gene Kranz speaks to a captivated audience.

    “I thought Gene Kranz did a wonderful job of explaining through words and pictures his experiences as a flight director for the Apollo missions,” said Nicole Skinner, project manager for Purdue College of Engineering Communications.

  • Members of the User Advisory Group (UAG) to the National Space Council led the event, “Some of the Many Dimensions of Space: Exploration, Commercial, and National Security.” Panelists included: Adm. James O Ellis Jr., chairman, UAG, and former head of STRATCOM; Mary Lynne Dittmar, president and CEO, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration; Mandy Vaughn, president, Vox Space; and David Wolf (BSEE ’78), four-time space shuttle astronaut.

  • An alumni panel comprised of past, present, and future NASA flight directors engaged a crowd at Loeb Playhouse. Moderated by past flight director Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, panelists included Allison Bolinger (future), Marcos Flores (future), Gary Horlacher (present), and Wayne Hale (past).

    Gary Horlacher, current NASA flight director (center), answers a question from the crowd.
  • Steven Collicott, Purdue Engineering professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, moderated an event about industry’s crucial role in the Apollo 11 Mission featuring alumni who worked behind the scenes. Panelists included Ron Larsen, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Tim Harmon, The Boeing Company’s Rocketdyne Division; and Chesterfield (Chet) Janes, IBM Mechanical Systems.