Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Houston Museum of Natural Science Celebrates the Apollo Moon Landing with a New Installation and Planetarium Show

Moon at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

It all began on July 20, 1969, when the Apollo 11 astronauts became the first humans to see the Earth from the surface of another world. For the first time, humans defied gravity by escaping the Earth and landing on another world. Now 50 years later, the Moon is landing in Houston, and HMNS astronomers are unveiling a new planetarium adventure appropriately entitled To Defy Gravity. To highlight the lunar experience, the Museum is bringing Moon by UK artist Luke Jerram to its Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. Hall in conjunction with the new planetarium show opening on April 19.

“The Museum’s Apollo celebration focuses on the future — When we see how much astronauts enjoyed being on the Moon, we know what it will be like to escape Earth’s gravity, explore the Moon and perhaps the whole solar system, said Dr. Carolyn Sumners, VP of Astronomy and Physics at HMNS. “Our future dreams began with Apollo”.

Moon by Luke Jerram is a gigantic, spherical sculpture that will cover much of Glassell Hall’s spacious ceiling and hang just above visitors’ heads as they enter the permanent exhibit halls. Measuring an astounding 23 feet in diameter, Moon features detailed imagery of the lunar surface taken by NASA’S Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Lunar craters, such as Tycho, the Apollo landing sites, and even the elusive “far side of the moon” are displayed in stunning resolution on this unique sculpture.

At an approximate scale of 1:500,000, each inch of the internally lit sculpture represents 42 feet of the moon’s surface. The effect is a larger than life moon, hanging in space, just out of reach. Altogether, the Moon fuses lunar imagery, moonlight, and a surround sound composition created by BAFTA and Ivor Novello award winning composer Dan Jones.

Moon (also named the Museum of the Moon) has toured all around the world from Dubai, to Beijing, Brussels, Melbourne, Mumbai and London. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is its first stop ever in the southern U.S.

Moon by Luke Jerram will be included with regular admission to the permanent exhibit halls.

In tandem with the Moon installation, the Burke Baker Planetarium will also premier a new show created by HMNS astronomers, To Defy Gravity—a journey that began with Apollo astronauts enjoying the low gravity moon and leading to future human adventures throughout the Solar System.

This adventure begins aboard the 36-story Saturn V rocket, to Apollo 11’s landing on the Sea of Tranquility, through the International Space Station, and on to the future’s Gateway Space Station in lunar orbit. We land at a viable colony at the moon’s South Pole and capture the excitement first shared by the Apollo astronauts. To Defy Gravity then explores the other worlds in our solar system and discovers gravity’s role in the energy from stars, the creation of black holes and the detection of gravity waves. To Defy Gravity opens April 19, and continues through the summer to commemorate the 24 Apollo astronauts who first defied Earth’s gravity.

Additionally, surrounding the Moon visitors can actually touch stones of real meteorites, ejected from the moon by an impact. Below the moon, visitors can wear special goggles that immerse the viewer in a journey to the moon, including scenes of Apollo, a fly over of the International Space Station, and a futuristic lunar colony – looking in all directions as the action continues.

Each summer afternoon, visitors can also choose to join an Expedition Center mission to New Tranquility Base. This unique experience features a briefing, an assignment in Mission Control, and an action-packed lunar journey in the Legacy Space Simulator. Suddenly each visitor has a unique role to play in their lunar landing.

On July 20, the evening of the Apollo 12 anniversary, space exploration scientist Dr. David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute will give a talk using The Moon sculpture to point out the moon’s geologic formations, asteroid impacts and historic landing sites. The evening will conclude with a performance by WindSync, an award-winning wind quintet, who will play a piece composed by Marc Mellits to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science begins all these lunar adventures with the April 19 installation of Moon by Luke Jerram at HMNS and the release of To Defy Gravity in the Burke Baker Planetarium.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Circle Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.


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