On July 20, 1969, mankind stepped on the surface of a celestial body beyond Earth for the first time. So the Whittenberger Planetarium on the campus of The College of Idaho will celebrate the anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind” by centering its upcoming shows on Earth’s only dance partner: the Moon.
“This summer is going to be the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, which was one of the most significant events probably of the 20th century,” said Amy Truksa, the director of the Whittenberger Planetarium. “This was a celebratory event, is was one of the real positive accomplishments.”
The celebration begins on February 15th when the Planetarium hosts a show called “The Dark Sides of the Moon Phases.” After the annual Spring Equinox show on March 2nd, the distinct theme returns on April 5th when Truksa and the Planetarium host “Houston, We Have a Mission (50th Anniversary of Apollo Moon Landing in 2019).” There is also a show scheduled on May 3rd titled “Once in a Blue Moon.”
April's show will occur again during the summer with dates yet to be determined, Truksa noted.
Tickets for all of the Planetarium’s scheduled events can be purchased here.
Truksa, who has been the director of the Whittenberger Planetarium since 2000, is excited for the shows. Not only to talk about what is known – like Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin being the first two people to ever set foot on the Moon – but also stories people may not have heard before.
At a conference she attended this past fall, Truksa said someone read the statement that then-President Richard Nixon would have read if the astronauts could not get back off the surface of the Moon and had to be left behind.
“It was incredibly moving,” she said. “This was a planetarium filled with planetarium directors and presenters and we were weepy. And I don’t think any of us had been weepy in our planetariums before.”
Truksa has been researching the topic extensively for the shows and revealed one anecdote to share.
“They (the astronauts) had lists and lists and lists of pictures they were going to take of the Moon and then, there they were, watching the Earth rise above the horizon of the Moon,” she said of Aldrin and Armstrong. “And it had never once come up as a thing of interest, that seeing the Earth from space would be meaningful or interesting to anybody.”
Thankfully, the moment was captured to be shared in places like the Whittenberger Planetarium, which is one of four planetariums in Idaho.
“Out east, there could be more than one planetarium in a town,” Truksa noted. “Out west, they’re not very close together.”
Which makes the Planetarium on the College’s campus a tremendous resource to the community. It seats approximately 50 people, but because the room has to be completely dark during the shows and Truksa presents from the back of the room, she doesn’t get to see the facial expressions of guests during the shows.
“All of my feedback comes through sound,” she admitted. “They give me a rush every time somebody gasps or says, ‘ohhh.’”
The College of Idaho has a 128-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.