Space Exploration Day Celebration

Image courtesy of Randy Read via Creative Commons at

Image courtesy of Randy Read via Creative Commons at

by Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

July 20th may not be an official holiday, but in the minds of so many Americans, it is considered Space Exploration Day.  On July 20th, 1969, two U.S. astronauts made history by taking the first steps on the moon’s surface. The Cold War brought about animosity between the Soviet Union and the United States, so it came as no surprise when President John F. Kennedy declared before Congress that it was his mission to reach the moon by the end of the 1960s. The space program of the United States was lagging behind the Soviet Union and the president thought it only fitting to surpass them.

On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 spacecraft was launched from Cape Kennedy.  Just a few days later, on July 20, the first human steps were taken on the moon’s surface by Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin. Not only did these two astronauts step foot on the moon, but they came back to Earth with panoramic photos of the surface near the landing site and samples of the surface itself, including rocks, lunar soil, and core samples taken 13 centimeters below the surface.

Though no launch sites exist in Kansas, the city of Hutchinson is home to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, which houses the second largest U.S. space artifact collection. The idea for the Cosmosphere began with the vision of Hutchinson city leader Patricia Brooks Carey, who wanted to create one of the first public planetariums.  The Justice Planetarium in the Cosmosphere offers a 45-minute trip through the night sky and its constellations, while Dr. Goddard, the creator of the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket, has “his” own lab, which features live demonstrations of early rocket technology. In session right now are space camps for students entering 2nd grade and up.

If you don’t get the chance to visit the Cosmosphere, you can do your own space exploration research here at Manhattan Public Library.  Here are a few resources we would recommend from our collection:


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