APOLLO 11: A POP CULTURE MOMENT FOR HUMANKIND

Contributor: Elizabeth Howell Author: Contributor: Elizabeth Howell
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Last updated: 15 July 2019

When most people think of the first human moon landing 50 years ago, they think of Neil Armstrong saying "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", or marvel at images of the first bootprint of the moon. But in reality, the landing was so much more than that.

Do you enjoy having a cell phone? You can thank Apollo. The engineers needed faster and smaller computers on the lunar spacecraft, which led to more powerful electronic devices today that fit in your pocket.

What about better diversity in the workplace? NASA had that too. Its workforce in the 1960s was largely white males, but it still included the first female mission controller and a group of African-American women, called "computers", who plotted trajectories for spacecrafts. Today, the agency is even better at recognizing the contributions of minorities and all genders.

Actually, the Apollo program offered us a lot. Way more than the moon rocks and pictures that the astronauts are most famous for bringing home. Their experiments showed us that the moon is moving away from Earth. Their words inspired generations of people worldwide to study science, engineering, technology and mathematics. And after retiring, many of these astronauts wrote books, founded non-profits, or participated in television shows to continue showing how space affects our everyday lives.

  • NASA satellite over earth
    Photo Credit: NASA

Now it's been five decades since Apollo 11 touched down on the moon on 20 July 1969, and YOTEL is just one of the entities celebrating the anniversary. Armstrong's spacesuit will go on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., after a crowdfunding campaign to restore it to near-original condition. It's just one small part – or step, if you like the pun – of the Smithsonian's "Apollo Festival". The festival will include lectures with astronauts and even an event with "Mythbusters" and "Tested" host Adam Savage, who will build a life-size replica of the command module Columbia's hatch.

In London, England, a vast "Moon Festival is a week-long exploration of the moon across cultures, history and disciplines taking place all around the borough of Greenwich, including events such as yoga under the moon, a wine and cheese party and even an all-night moonwalk. Or head over to South Kensington, where the Natural History Museum has a huge model moon – one of several on tour worldwide – that already is an Instagram icon. This "Museum of the Moon" hosts daily performances under the model, as well as opportunities for visitors to look up and admire the detailed craters.

In fact, many cities around the world have Apollo 11 commemorations – and not just the usual suspects of Orlando and Houston and Los Angeles, where mighty NASA centres are based. For example, in Ottawa, Canada, the Museum of Nature has a new, big moon lantern inside its glass tower – and it plans a full day of moon festivities on July 20 with astronauts, workshops and lectures. Canberra's National Museum of Australia has a display of equipment and photos from Honeysuckle Creek, which helped relay the moon footage back to Earth. 

Best yet – in between your many travels – we're sure that you can find some moon-related television shows to watch, or perhaps some models to build. Classic films or miniseries to watch include Hidden Figures, Apollo 13, First Man or From the Earth to the Moon. Check out National Geographic Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, BBC and NASA Television for new Apollo documentaries throughout the month. If you're more into working with your hands, be sure to look at the Lego and Playmobil stores online for many Apollo 11 or space-related modules. These are all easy ways to get your friends and family involved in the exploration of space, right in your living room.

YOTEL is joining in the Moon Landing celebrations!

New York – Enjoy a Full Moon Silent Disco on 20 July at the Green Fig. We will be celebrating the anniversary of the first moon landing with a dance party and a special "Full Moon Martini" cocktail. 

San Francisco – Guests at YOTEL San Francisco can enjoy fun Apollo 11 themed props available for photos as well as discounted tickets to the SF Symphony show, "OUT OF THIS WORLD: A CELEBRATION ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOON LANDING" on July 19.

Boston – As an homage, YOTEL Boston will be recreating the first drink served to the astronauts after they were released from quarantine. The cocktail is called “Moonwalk” (adapted from Joe Gilmore, The American Bar, London 1954)

  • 30ml Grand Marnier
  • 3 dashes Grapefruit bitters
  • 2 dashes orange flower water
  • 1 Sugar cube
  • Champagne

Washington D.C. – Our affiliate hotel, the Liaison Capitol Hill, is hosting a retro rooftop party that will include teasers about YOTEL’s launch that will be "landing soon" in Washington D.C. There will be lava lamps, punch, jello shots and more.

Elizabeth Howell is a freelance space journalist in Ottawa, Canada. You can see her latest work at @howellspace.