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Mark your calendars, save the dates: Planetarium events will moon over the moon

February 13, 2019

On July 20, 1969, mankind stepped on the surface of a celestial body beyond Earth for the first time. So the Whittenberger Planetarium on the campus of The College of Idaho will celebrate the anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind” by centering its upcoming shows on Earth’s only dance partner: the moon.

“This summer is going to be going to be the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, which was one of the most significant events probably of the 20th century,” said Amy Truksa, the director of the Whittenberger Planetarium in Caldwell. “This was a celebratory event, was one of the real positive things.”

According to a press release about the moon series, the celebration begins on February 15 when the Planetarium hosts a show called “The Dark Sides of the Moon Phases.” After the annual spring equinox show on March 2, the distinct theme returns on April 5 when Truksa and the planetarium host “Houston, We Have a Mission (50th Anniversary of Apollo Moon Landing in 2019).” There is also a show scheduled on May 3 titled “Once in a Blue Moon.”

Truksa, who has been the director of the Whittenberger Planetarium since 2000, is excited for the shows. Not only to talk about what is known — like Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin being the first two people to ever set foot on the moon — but also the stories people may not have heard before.

At a conference she attended this past fall, Truksa said someone read the statement that then-President Richard Nixon would have read if the astronauts could not get back off the surface of the moon and had to be left behind.

“It was incredibly moving,” she said. “This was a planetarium filled with planetarium directors and presenters and we were weepy. And I don’t think any of us had been weepy in our planetariums before.”

Truksa has been researching the topic extensively for the shows and revealed one anecdote to share. “They (the astronauts) had lists and lists and lists of pictures they were going to take of the moon and then, there they were, watching the Earth rise above the horizon of the moon,” she said of Aldrin and Armstrong. “And it had never once come up as a thing of interest, that seeing the Earth from space would be meaningful or interesting to anybody.”

Thankfully, the moment was captured to be shared in places like the Whittenberger Planetarium, which is one of three planetariums in Idaho.

“Out east, there could be more than one planetarium in a town,” Truksa noted. “Out west, they’re not very close together.”

The planetarium seats approximately 50 people, but because the room has to be completely dark during the shows and Truksa presents from the back of the room, she doesn’t get to see the facial expressions of guests during the shows.

“All of my feedback comes through sound,” she said. “They give me a rush every time somebody gasps or says, ‘ohhh.’”

For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to the website at collegeofidaho.edu.

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