ASHLAND — Next Saturday will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the culmination of a decades-long rivalry between the United States and Soviet Union.

To mark the historic event, the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum will explore the "Space Race" and its impact on society in a new exhibit that will debut July 20. Nebraska astronaut Clayton Anderson will speak at 9 a.m. that day about the future of space exploration, and the exhibit will open to the public at 10 a.m.

"Space: Humanity's Longest Journey" will be on display through January 2020 at the museum. The exhibit features photos and artifacts, including spacesuits, from both the United States and Soviet Union.

Brian York, curator of exhibits and collections, said the original plan was to hold a brief exhibit about the Apollo 11 landing but was later changed to include the entirety of the Space Race.

"I really wanted to look at both sides of it, because it's fairly common knowledge in the U.S. of what our Space Race was," he said. "But what was going on in the Soviet Union?"

The exhibit starts with early space exploration efforts, including the United States' Explorer 1 and Soviet Union's Sputnik. It also features women who were instrumental in these milestones, including aviator Jerrie Cobb and welder Margaret "Hap" Brennecke.

Along with NASA's efforts, the exhibit also shows areas of pop culture influenced by the Space Race, including television shows, toys and architecture, such as the Space Needle, and the 1964 New York World's Fair.

"One of the areas we want to talk about within the exhibit is that it's not all about what NASA did," York said. "It's not all about the race itself, but how it affected our lives."

The exhibit also includes a replica of a Nebraska living room from 1969, featuring a television set airing coverage of the moon landing.

"What we're hoping this does is offer opportunity for a generational conversation," York said. "It's getting parents and grandparents to be able able to talk to their children and grandchildren about where they were during the moon landing."

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York said the museum plans to move the exhibit to a spot with space capsules in September. The area will then be used for a hands-on exhibit detailing the future of NASA and space exploration.

The Space Race taught Americans many lessons, and York said he hopes people can learn about the determination of the two countries, as well as get reengaged in space exploration.

"Was it hard? Yes, it was hard. Did we have setbacks? Yes we did. But we didn't give up," he said. "And it didn't hurt to have some competition."

More information on the exhibit and anniversary celebration can be found on the SAC Museum's website.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or cspilinek@journalstar.com.


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