Apollo 11 took off from Florida, but it isn’t just the sunshine state that has reason to celebrate this weekend.

“We’re a part of it, too,” said Eleanor Barker, director of Bozeman’s American Computer & Robotics Museum.

One of several events around town, the museum held an open house to celebrate the mission’s 50th anniversary. It was a big day for the museum, and it’s hard to think of another historical achievement that compares, Barker said.

Bozeman is lucky to have so many connections to the mission, she said. On Saturday, a retired Montana State University physicist spoke at the museum of his time spent at MIT developing the Apollo mission’s navigation and guidance systems, which are still delivering data today.

MSU professor John Sample and space flight engineer Robert Gunderson also spoke about how their work connects to Apollo 11. Many scientists in Bozeman either contributed to technology leading up to the mission or have been greatly influenced by it, Barker said.

“It makes our museum a natural location for an Apollo celebration,” she said.

Other events celebrating Apollo 11 included a moon launch anniversary party featuring retro costumes at Bozeman Public Library and activities at the Montana Science Center.

Barker said the 50th anniversary is special because there are still people walking around who remember when it happened. Event attendee Gail Weingart was in her 30s when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, and she remembers watching it in black and white on TV.

“I think it is one of man’s most amazing feats,” she said.

It was incredible learning about all of the scientific experiments done on the shuttle, she said. Scientists have learned so much from space travel, she said, from how the human body ages to what happens to crumbs when an astronaut eats a cookie in space.

During the space race years, she also remembers watching three astronauts die as a rocket took off on live television. She was a school counselor at the time, and had to watch it happen with her students.

It was a devastating experience for the students, she said. But the success of missions like Apollo 11 shows how much scientists have learned and accomplished.

“Experiments don’t always succeed, but they rebuild and try again,” she said. “I think one of the most amazing things was all of the scientific experiments done on the shuttle and the outreach on our lives.”

Abby Lynes can be reached at alynes@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2651. Follow her on Twitter @Abby_Lynes.

Abby Lynes covers business and the economy for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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