WISH intern experience at the Apollo 11 anniversary celebration

By Stephanie Delateur| July 26, 2019

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I went to the National Mall on July 16, 2019, to see the Saturn V rocket, the rocket that traveled to the moon as part of my WISH intern experience at the Apollo 11 anniversary celebration.

It was not just a photo. Somehow, it was possible to make smoke trickle out of the rocket so it looked alive. 

After I had gotten my fair share of pictures, I took the long walk back to the Archives station. As I was coming to the crosswalk from the area near the lodge, I saw lines of people holding their phones taking pictures. I saw kids with space helmets looking excited.

As humid as it was, I had a great time basking in the celebration of five decades since such a historic event happened. 

I had no idea of what was to come next in this monumental Apollo 11, 50th-anniversary celebration. 

The Saturn V rocket in all its glory on July 16, 2019 (photo by Stephanie Delateur).

 

No matter how I angled my phone, I couldn’t take a bad picture of it (photo by Stephanie Delateur).

 

It was intimidating when I first got to the festival on July 18, 2019. There were lots of people and tents. I noticed each tent had something different to offer. One had technology, another had a rover that could go over people as they lay on their stomachs. There were also walk-in tents, so people could open a door and see videos or participate in activities. There was even a stage for performers.

I was really surprised at how versatile the festival was in terms of activities for age groups. I thought it would be a mostly kid-oriented event, but it was nice to see that they had lots of activities all age groups could enjoy. There were models of satellites and other new technological achievements that will be released in the next few years, according to some of the workers or volunteers I talked to. 

Perhaps most surprising was how much free stuff was up for grabs. There was a table with items like fans, bookmarks, multiple copies of a book, posters, and stickers. I left with two bags full of stuff. 

Wandering around the grassy field under the hot sun, I walked into a tent with two sets of doors and was met with a huge circular screen with a video montage from what I thought was the Apollo 11 mission. An old woman came up to me and said she could not watch the video. She then told me her husband worked for NASA for 42 years. I saw who I thought was her husband, a man in a blue hat, watching the video. It was sweet to see someone who worked under such a well-known name for over 40 years watching an unforgettable moment in history. As I watched him watch the video, I could only imagine what he was feeling. It is almost the 50th anniversary of this event and here he is at a festival honoring that moment in time. He looked fascinated and reminiscent; I wondered if he was working when the rocket took off and landed on the moon. 

 

Most of the tents to the front of the stage at the festival (photo by Stephanie Delateur).

 

An inflatable rocket, though I don’t know its name (photo by Stephanie Delateur).

 

A week before, I found out about an event from a Smithsonian Magazine article that talked about a show–and the other events to celebrate the anniversary, like the rocket showing on the Washington Monument and the festival–happening July 19 and 20. I told my coworkers about the show and two of them were available to go with me. I planned on going Saturday, July 20, since July 20 is the actual anniversary date, as the article also explains. 

I was able to meet my coworkers for the 10:42 p.m. show. An announcement was made that the show would start at that time. An article in the DCist says one of the executive producers of the show, Katie Moyer, said the reason for starting at that time was because at 10:56 p.m., the footprint of Neil Armstrong would show on the Washington Monument, as that was the same time his foot landed on the moon. 

There were crowds as far as the eye could see. People got upset and chanted “please sit down” due to the number of people closer to the screens who decided to stand and block the view of everyone else. Eventually, everyone stood up, as far as I could see. 

I have been here for several weeks at this point and I only have a few more weeks left. I have seen so many museums, memorials, and buildings. But this show was one of the highlights of my trip. I had no clue the moon landing anniversary was coming up, let alone events to celebrate it. During the course of the video, I could feel the goosebumps sprout on my arms and legs. I almost cried at one point. Watching this made me think about how others might have felt watching this at home, and how significant an achievement this was not just for the United States, but for the world.

 

One of the many scenes from the video shown on the National Mall. In case the subtitles are not visible, this one says “United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America” (photo by Stephanie Delateur).

 

This one says “See, the contrast has increased and only the sunlit side of these” (photo by Stephanie Delateur).

 

If you are at an internship now or will be at an internship in DC, all you need to do is scope out fun things to do. The city is full of events and surprises. Look at the museum’s websites and find what events they are hosting and their dates and times. There is plenty to do and see if you take the time to find them. WISH makes transportation easy since they are near Metro stations, so going to events like this is more convenient.

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