Summer of Space: 9 Space-Related Activities Happening Around SoCal

Relive the excitement of man’s first steps on the moon and the long journey it took to get there with 20 new hours of out of this world programming on PBS SoCal’s “Summer of Space” Watch out for “American Experience: Chasing the Moon” and “Blue Sky Metropolis,” four one-hour episodes that examine Southern California’s role in the history of aviation and aerospace.

Our Summer of Space commemorates America’s journey into space—and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight that landed the first two humans on the moon. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969.

To celebrate the momentous anniversary, we found a few space-themed activities taking place around Southern California all summer long.

Have fun out there!

Through Aug. 11

Apollo 11: The Immersive Live Show

APOLLO 11 – The Immersive Live Show follows the epic journey to the moon and the 400,000 individuals it took to accomplish the mission. The original story is told through the character of Ben, a retired NASA Aerospace Engineer, as he talks to his granddaughter about those days. The show is staged in a specially built Lunar Dome (currently at the Rose Bowl’s Parking Lot K) that features 40,000 square feet of 360° video projection with 20 actors, a full orchestral score and life-sized rockets. The Lunar Dome will tour 18 cities, and it moves to the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa from Oct. 10 – Nov. 3.

July 11-12

Moon Struck! Celebrating Apollo’s 50th Anniversary

The von Kármán Lecture Series presents an event that delves into the supporting roles that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech played in lunar exploration. Learn how JPL assisted in the early days of the space race and furthered the understanding of the moon. Host Preston Dyches leads a discussion with Blaine Baggett, JPL Fellow and Emmy award-winning producer; Arden Albee, Caltech professor emeritus of Geology and Planetary Science; and John Casani, JPL veteran engineer of the Ranger and Surveyor era. The panel takes place at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 11 at the von Kármán Auditorium at JPL, and again on Friday, July 12, at 7:00 p.m. at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium. Both events are free and no tickets are required.

July 13-October 2019

Apollo 11 Exhibit Opening
The Columbia Memorial Space Center (CMSC) in Downey opens an exhibition that highlights the Southern California contributions to land American astronauts on the moon for the Apollo 11 mission. During the actual anniversary week (July 16-24), the museum offers a number of events, dramatic performances, and hands-on activities. The schedule includes rocket launches (July 16), NASA Day (July 19), Landing Day and an Apollo 11 screening (July 20) and Splashdown Day (July 24). Admission to the CMSC runs $3 – $5, but some of the Apollo 11 events are free.

July 13-24

Griffith Observatory Tribute to Apollo’s 50th Anniversary

The Observatory celebrates Apollo 11 with ten days of special programs, exhibits, family activities, film screenings, parties, and photo opps. The Golden Moon Star Party Kickoff begins at 2:00 p.m. on July 13, focusing on the moon, which rises at 5:35 p.m. Telescopes will be on the front lawn during the anniversary launch event courtesy of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society. The Star Party is free. Other events during the week include: All Space Considered Remembers Apollo 11 (July 16); The Once and Future Moon (July 18); and To Walk on the Moon: Past, Present, and Future (July 20), which features a day of free lectures and talks.

July 13

Return to the Sea of Tranquility

Summer of Space: 9 Space-Related Activities Happening Around SoCal
Moon surface, courtesy of Mount Wilson Observatory

On July 13 at 5:30 p.m., the Mount Wilson Observatory Lecture Series presents Return to the Sea of Tranquility: Exploring Lunar Caves, a talk by Dr. Laura Kerbe a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Kerber is also the principal investigator for the Discovery Mission Concept Moon Diver, which will explore caves in the lunar lava flows. After the lecture, the 100-inch telescope will be opened for attendees to look through. Food will be available for purchase. Guests are also welcome to pack their own picnic. Lecture tickets: $25.

July 13-28

Apollo’s 50th Anniversary at the Discovery Cube
The Discovery Cube, with locations in Sylmar and Santa Ana, partners with Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) to introduce children to radio astronomy. Participants learn about the solar system while operating a 34-meter (112 foot) radio telescope and studying the celestial bodies visible. On July 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 the Sylmar location, bring an empty 2-liter bottle and your imagination to turn the bottle into a rocket to launch. The 50th anniversary activities are included in museum admission ($13.95 – $15.95).

July 19 and 26

50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo, Journey to Tranquility Base: Apollo 11, 50 Years On
On these two Friday nights (at 8:00 p.m.), Santa Monica College’s lecture series examines the Apollo 11 mission in detail, screening original TV clips of the first moonwalk. As a special bonus, after a brief intermission around 9:00 p.m., the presentation continues with extended footage of the Apollo Eagle moonwalk. This special screening takes place at SMC’s Planetarium. On Aug. 16 and 23, SMC’s lecture series presents, 50-Year Retrospective: The Flights of Apollo, The Lunar Receiving Laboratory, or What to Do with a Load of Moon Rocks? Lecture admission: $5-$6.

Sept. 21

2019 Night Sky Festival

Summer of Space: 9 Space-Related Activities Happening Around SoCal
Star Trails by Steve Lyon via Flickr

The Night Sky Festival is an all-day celebration of Joshua Tree National Park’s nighttime sky. The park was recently designated as an International Dark Sky Park, providing a place for those who want to experience a naturally dark night sky. The annual event features activities for all ages, including guided tours of a solar system model or hiking tour with docents explaining the flora and fauna. Check out a close-up view of the sun through a solar telescope or let the kids create astronomy-themed crafts. The Night Star Party offers spectacular views at night with 20 telescopes with astronomers on hand to help identify what’s being viewed. Some events are free, while others like the Star Party require tickets ($35-$50).

Sept. 22, 2019

From L.A. to the Moon: The 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Landing
The Los Angeles Public Library hosts a panel of former aerospace professionals from the Apollo era at the Central Library’s Taper Auditorium on Sept. 22 at 2:00 p.m. They’ll share their personal and professional stories and recollections of their work in building spaceships that ferried astronauts to the moon. Ben Dickow, president and executive director of the Columbia Memorial Space Center, moderates the panel. Free tickets will be available via Eventbrite on Aug. 11.

Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based arts and culture writer who loves to tell people what to do (and where to go). Check out her events columns and other musings on, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.