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NMSU helps commemorate 40th anniversary of Apollo 16 mission

This year marks the 40th anniversary of NASA's Apollo 16 mission and New Mexico State University will help the community celebrate with several events including presentations by Apollo flight director Gene Kranz and Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke, along with model rocket launches, displays and student competitions that will take place from March 8-10.

Students stand watching their model rocket ships launch into the air.
SEMAA students participating in rocket launching competition at an NMSU Apollo 14 commemoration last year. (Photo by David Tomlinson)

Kranz is best known for being the flight director for Apollo 11, the first manned spacecraft mission to land on the moon. As flight director of Apollo 13 he helped to bring three astronauts back to earth after an onboard explosion. Kranz is also author of the book "Failure is Not an Option," about his experiences and perspective from inside NASA's mission control.

Duke was Kranz's capsule communicator for the Apollo 11 moon landing and was the only person to have direct communication with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they descended to the lunar surface. Duke also served as lunar module pilot of Apollo 16 and was the 10th man to walk on the lunar surface. Apollo 16 was the second in a series of missions planned for the Apollo program and its objective was to investigate the previously unexplored lunar highlands.

The first commemoration event is a special screening of the movie Apollo 13 that will feature discussions with Duke and Kranz at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 8, at Allen Theaters Cineport 10 in Las Cruces. All tickets must be purchased via the Web at www.apollo40.org. Proceeds will go to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and Habitat for Humanity.

Friday, March 9, events will begin at the Aggie Memorial Stadium East Lot with a presentation of colors by the Blue Knights Honor Guard of the Air Force ROTC at 9:30 a.m. Afterward, members of the Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts, or FLARE, will launch models of historic White Sands rocket ships and Apollo era spacecraft.

Beginning at 10:30 a.m. March 9, students participating in the Southern New Mexico Engineering Mathematics and Aerospace Academy, or SEMAA, will compete in an "eggloft" rocket launching event where they will see who can have the longest, safest launch of an egg.

Several presentations, displays and activities will be occurring from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Pan American Center including a presentation by Duke and Kranz beginning at 11:30 a.m. There will also be static displays that including some from FLARE, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA WSTF, NM Space History Museum, Museum of Natural History, Virgin Galactic, Air Force ROTC, Civil Air Patrol, and Habitat for Humanity. Hands-on activities will be available for SEMAA Students including presentations from NMSU's Geology, Astronomy and Electrical Engineering departments, School of Nursing, and from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, or AIAA. Other presenters include Reaching The Pinnacle, Asombro Institute, Supercomputing, SEMAA, Had Robinson's Paragliders, and more.

Krantz will be inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, March 10 at the Tays Special Events Center in Alamogordo. Shuttle Astronaut Sid Gutierrez will be the keynote speaker and tickets can be obtained by contacting the museum.

For more information about NMSU and SEMMA involvement in the Apollo 40th anniversary celebrations contact Laura Lomas Tomlinson at llomas@nmsu.edu.