July 18th, 2019

Evergreen Museum: Space History One Small Step at a Time

Visitors to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum deliberately work their way through the space history building. Once they eventually arrive in front of the full-size replica of a lunar module, they pause a little longer than normal.

The young, that is anyone 50 or younger, read the display information with interest. Older visitors seem to stare at the module with nostalgic reverence. They don’t need to read about this; they watched the story unfold in real time 50 years ago this week.

The date was July 20, 1969. American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the Apollo 11 command spacecraft to board the lunar module “Eagle” and fly down to the moon and Tranquility Base. Witnesses all over the world stared at black and white television images and held their collective breath until Armstrong announced “the Eagle has landed.”

A day later, Armstrong would appear on TV, this time carefully stepping down a ladder then standing at the foot of the lunar module. For many, the memory is still clear: The astronaut, appearing almost as a silhouette against the sun-soaked surface of the moon, pauses to describe his first close look at the soil before taking “… one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Apollo 11 exhibit at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

Fifty years later, the world stops once again to remember the achievement. The Evergreen museum (www.evergreenmuseum.org) is honoring the anniversary with an Apollo Festival on Saturday and Sunday, July 20-21. Activities and presentations scheduled, some educational (a Smithsonian Channel documentary, panel discussions, a Cape Canaveral eyewitness account, and more) and some pure fun (rocket launches, demonstrations, food and music). See the museum website for information and a discount “golden ticket.

When you visit the museum, take time to enjoy “The Greatest Adventure,” an original art series by Luke McCready commemorating Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier, manned flight, the U.S.-U.S.S.R. “Space Race,” and Apollo 11. McCready presents the story in large oil paintings illustrating engineering achievements with additional drawings capturing key people and events.

Then follow the walking timeline of flight from Sputnik to the Space Shuttle. See how the United States and the Soviet Union competed to gain space supremacy through a variety of exhibits color coded red for the Soviet Union and blue for the United States. Follow the early success of the Mercury program, the tragedy and triumphs of the Gemini, and eventually the Apollo program that first sent men around the moon before lowering them to the surface. Displays also detail the Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station.

Replicas and exhibit graphics provide detailed information for anyone ready to learn. Interactive stations allow kids some hands-on fun.

Eventually, the stroll through space history leads to that lunar module. A replica of Neil Armstrong’s moon suit is positioned next to an American flag. On this day, a woman stands before the exhibit, seemingly deep in thought. She says her name is Maryla and she was a high school student in her native Poland when Armstrong first walked on the moon.  Yes, she remembers watching it all live. “It was a great moment,” she says, not just for America but for the world. “It was wonderful for all humans.”

It was one small step.

Dan Shryock writes each month about McMinnville and Yamhill County. He was 15 years old in 1969 when he was transfixed by images beamed 238,900 miles from the moon to his living room television. Now he’s ready to write about moon tourism.