George Bush Intercontinental Airport hosted a celebration Wednesday in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission which brought the first man to the moon.
United Airlines brought NASA members, Houston leaders and Space Center Houston staff on a commemorative flight to the Space City. They held an in-flight celebration of the Apollo 11 lunar landing before touching down in Houston Wednesday afternoon. The plane taxied between two water cannons.
Balloons hung around a large mural of a pink astronaut in Terminal C. The art piece celebrates the plan announced by the Trump Administration this year to send the first woman to the moon by 2024.
An Army band from Fort Hood greeted those on board the flight with patriotic songs as they deplaned.
The director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center was a part of that flight commemorating America’s space race victory.
Now to be a part of the team that’s making it happen—a return to the moon—it’s really an honor,” said Mark Geyer, Director of Johnson Space Center.
NASA’s last manned moon mission was on 1972.
Former NASA chief astronaut Peggy Whitson was also on the 50th anniversary flight to Space City Wednesday.
“It’s really special for me, because the moon landing was actually what inspired me to become an astronaut,” said Whitson. “I was nine-years-old when I watched them walk on the moon, and I thought, wow, cool job!”
Whitson went on to become the NASA chief astronaut, completing a total of 10 space walks and 665 days in space—the US record—before retiring.
Whitson said she’s ready to sign up for the new ARTEMIS mission back to the moon. NASA has yet to select the four astronauts who will go.
“The Vice President kind of gave us the charge and said, Hey, I want to see us on the surface of the moon by 2024,” said Geyer.
“Every one of us that works at NASA is trying to be a part of the ARTEMIS mission to put the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024,” said current astronaut Reid Wiseman. “The excitement—I can’t [overstate] the excitement”
Wiseman is one of 37 current NASA astronauts celebrating 50 years since America beat Russia in the space race.
“I feel like I lucked into it," said Wiseman. "Because I’m just a regular person who just happens to work at NASA, so I get to be a part of this. There is so much excitement—not just in this town, but across the country.”
An even bigger celebration will be this Saturday. July 20 marks the day 50 years ago when Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon. Space Center Houston will have special events for that anniversary.