Arkansas Space Grant Consortium celebrates 50th anniversary of moon landing

The UA Little Rock-based Arkansas Space Grant Consortium is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing with two out-of-this-world events this summer. 

The Arkansas Space Grant Consortium, in partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System and the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society, will host a lecture with astronomer Phil Plait, best known for his “Bad Astronomy” website and blog, where he debunks bad science and popular misconceptions.

The lecture, “Strange New Worlds: Is Earth Special?” will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at the Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave. The lecture explores the search for exoplanets that lie outside the solar system. While thousands of exoplanets have been discovered, none appear to resemble  Earth.

After earning his doctorate in astronomy at the University of Virginia, Plait worked on the Hubble Space Telescope as a NASA contractor at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He hosted the TV show “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe” on the Discovery Channel in 2010 and was the head science writer for “Bill Nye Saves the World” on Netflix.

The second event is a screening of the documentary, “Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future.” The screening will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 26, at the Ron Robinson Theater.

Bonestell was a space artist who painted memorable scenes of space flight and humans traveling to distant worlds. When Dr. Wernher von Braun, an aerospace engineer who pioneered rocket technology in Germany and the U.S., wrote articles to convince the American people of the merits of spaceflight, Bonestell was the artist who illustrated his vision.

“Von Braun had the idea that you had to sell the idea of going into space to the American people,” said Darrell Heath, former president of the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society and animal lab technician at UA Little Rock. “He began writing articles about people going into space, and he even teamed up with Walt Disney to present a three-hour television special. Chesley Bonestell illustrated the artwork for von Braun’s articles. It struck a chord with the American people and helped sell the idea of manned spaceflight to the American public. This documentary explores how his artwork influenced the American people.”

Bonestell helped design memorable architectural sites like the Chrysler Building and the Golden Gate Bridge. His artistry provided convincing backgrounds for legendary productions like “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Citizen Kane.”

Both events are free and open to the public. In addition to the events, the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium is also a sponsor of the Central Arkansas Library System Summer Reading Club 2019: A Universe of Stories.

The Central Arkansas Library System has purchased new telescopes for the CALS Telescope Program with a grant from the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium. CALS patrons now have access to 30 telescopes to borrow. The CALS Telescope Program began in 2016 when CAAS helped CALS procure funding for the program from the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium and then modified the original collection of 16 telescopes for public use. Since that time, hundreds of CALS patrons have participated in the program, checking out telescopes to take home and attending educational events to learn about the night sky.

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