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Moon walking

The Institute for Earth Observations at the Palmyra Cove Nature Park celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing with a “Weekend on the Moon”.

Assisted by summer intern Dylan Greene, Cinnaminson resident Sally McCabe takes a virtual reality moon walk, one of several exhibits at the nature park’s Institute for Earth Observations.

The Palmyra Cove Nature Park celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing in grand style Friday, July 19, with a kickoff event for its “Weekend on the Moon” at the park’s Institute for Earth Observations.

Throughout the weekend, the institute ran educational programs, including planetarium shows, NASA STEM challenges, virtual and augmented reality experiences, in the Innovation Lab and solar viewing with sun scopes. 

Friday’s event featured guest speaker Professor Hildreth “Hal” Walker, Jr., who conducted the lunar laser ranging operations during the original Apollo 11 moon landing and NASA Solar System Ambassador Frank O’Brien, who spoke about the voyage of Apollo 11. 

“We’re proud to be celebrating this historical event with help from our friends and colleagues from NASA,” said Palmyra Cove Nature Park and Institute for Earth Observations Executive Director John Moore. “But we’re also proud to be able to offer visitors a firsthand look at how these experiments on the Moon were conducted, thanks to a scientifically accurate, virtual reality program developed right here at the Institute for Earth Observations.”

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy also came out to the event to present Walker with a resolution from the state, recognizing his historic work with NASA and more recent collaboration with the Institute for Earth Observations.

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy addresses guest speaker Professor Hildreth “Hal” Walker, Jr. before presenting him with a resolution from the state recognizing him for his historic contribution to the original Apollo 11 mission.

According to Moore, the institute has benefited greatly from its partnership with NASA. They receive and display data from two of the nation’s main sources of satellites, NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). NOAA satellites are where we get our weather forecasts.

“They’re putting out terabytes of data every day and that provides us with a global weather data set which you can see on some of the exhibits around here,” said Moore.

The institute also works with NASA’s GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) program, which encourages students, teachers, scientists and citizens to come together to learn about science and the environment.

The evening’s guest of honor attended the event via video conference call from his home in Los Angeles. Introduced by Moore as one of NASA’s true “hidden figures,” Walker headed the manufacturing, testing and operation of the KORAD K-1500 laser system during the original Apollo 11 landing. This would be the only interactive planetary experiment to take place during the mission.

Asked how it felt to be a part of such a momentous event in our country’s history, Walker replied that he and his colleagues felt blessed to have been given the chance.

“We were given an opportunity to be part of an air guidance extending from the Earth to another heavenly body,” said Walker. “We took this personally.”

Following the guest speaker, attendees had a chance to explore the Institute for Earth Observation’s various exhibits and displays. One of the most popular and unique among them offered visitors a chance to take a virtual reality moon walk and perform some of the experiments carried out by the Apollo 11 astronauts.

Cinnaminson resident Sally McCabe was first to don a VR headset and give the interactive exhibit a try.

“I was the second person to plant the flag on the moon,” said McCabe.


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