Apollo moon-walking astronaut to launch Flagstaff Science Festival

The 30th annual Flagstaff Festival of Science To the Moon and Beyond debuts September 20 - 29 in Flagstaff. Additional events will be held throughout the year celebrating Flagstaff’s Lunar Legacy commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. (screenshot/Flagstaff Festival of Science tabloid)

The 30th annual Flagstaff Festival of Science To the Moon and Beyond debuts September 20 - 29 in Flagstaff. Additional events will be held throughout the year celebrating Flagstaff’s Lunar Legacy commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. (screenshot/Flagstaff Festival of Science tabloid)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The 10th and youngest person to ever walk on the moon, Apollo 16 Lunar Module Pilot General Charlie Duke, is launching the 30th annual Flagstaff Festival of Science To the Moon and Beyond, September 20 - 29.

In addition to the free, 10-day event, the Flagstaff Festival of Science in collaboration with the city of Flagstaff is celebrating Flagstaff’s Lunar Legacy with activities throughout the year, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing (July 20, 1969), Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step’ and local scientific involvement in the Apollo missions.

Duke is scheduled to be the W. L. Gore & Associates Keynote Presenter, at 7 p.m. Sept. 20, in Northern Arizona University’s Audrey Auditorium.

“I found Flagstaff to be one of the most interesting places that we visited to study geology. I loved the people, the San Francisco Peaks and the beauty of the area,” Duke said.

In preparation for his famous 1972 space flight, Duke, like all of the Apollo mission astronauts, trained in Flagstaff. He practiced maneuvering a lunar rover prototype over rough volcanic terrain and in and out of a simulated crater field north of town.

“The suspension provided a lot smoother ride than we had on the moon!” he said. “The practice rover on Earth was 800 to 900 pounds and a lot more stable. The one on the moon only weighed 80 pounds. The thing bounced around a lot!”

Duke also visited Meteor Crater and hiked the Grand Canyon as part of his training. As a tribute to Flagstaff and the support the astronauts received, he and Apollo 16 Commander John Young named a Moon crater near their Lunar Highlands landing spot, “Flag Crater,” a name that remains today.

Duke will share his experiences on the moon and provide insight into the future of space travel.

“I see us back in space with a permanent moon base. There we can develop systems and the confidence in repairing those systems, and eventually launch to Mars. We’ll learn how to live in deep space like we do in Antarctica and cycle in crews every couple of months,” he said. “We are going to want to see people going into space more. The human heart is meant to explore.”

The Flagstaff Festival of Science provides more than 100 free public science education activities, connecting young people with scientists and creating interactive experiences for all ages at observatories, research stations, national parks and forests, field sites and laboratories. Signature events include Science in the Park, NAU Science and Engineering Day, Lowell Observatory Open House and SCI Talks.

Throughout the year, the Lunar Legacy Lecture Series offers presentations featuring Flagstaff scientists and historians, 6 - 7:30 p.m., on the second Wednesday of each month at the Coconino Community College Lone Tree Campus, flagstaffarizona.org/lunarlegacy/

To help bring astronaut Duke and impactful science activities to the area, donors are offering a $10,000 Lunar Legacy Challenge and will match individual donations dollar for dollar. Contributions of $500 or more include tickets to the VIP Reception and a professional group photo with General Duke. Tax-deductible contributions can be made at www.scifest.org.

The award-winning Festival is made possible through the generous support of businesses, organizations, foundations and individuals. Major sponsors include W. L. Gore & Associates, the City of Flagstaff/BBB Revenues, Flagstaff Arts Council, Northern Arizona University, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff, Science Sandbox, Wells Fargo and Peaks Audio Productions.

More information about the festival and the Lunar Legacy Lecture Series is available at https://www.scifest.org.

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