Looking back at ‘one small step’ on the moon

Astronaut Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin Jr. walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, the second man to set foot on the surface.
Astronaut Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin Jr. walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, the second man to set foot on the surface.Neil Armstrong/NASA/File

Do you remember where you were when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the moon nearly 50 years ago?

If so, Framingham State University wants to hear your story. And for those who weren’t alive at the time, officials hope to bring the community together to help citizens gain a broader understanding of the history and social environment and how the landing on July 20, 1969, was just one piece of the puzzle.

“If you look at that window of time, it’s so powerful to see what happened,’’ said Irene Porro, director of Framingham State’s Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning. “New ideas were emerging, tensions were rising, and also people were coming together and looking at different ways to face problems. It became important for me not to celebrate just the moment but to reflect on this period of history and see what we can learn from that period and inform us as we move forward.’’

Supported by experts from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Porro spearheaded a 15-month project, “Moon Landing in Context.’’ The project aims to delve into the historical, social, and cultural framework between 1962 and 1972, a period marked by space exploration, racial unrest, and civil disobedience.


Porro said she was only 2 in 1969, so she doesn’t have a personal connection to this historic event. But she said it also may be one reason why she wants to learn more about it. As part of the series, Porro wants the community to share stories about what they remember from the summer of 1969.

“It is important for us being an academic institution to make sure our students have an understanding of history and really see how this had an impact on life today,’’ she said. “We’re trying to engage our students to talk to their parents or grandparents and hear their stories.’’


The series kicks off on Sept. 27 with a talk by Frank White, author of “The Overview Effect,’’ who will discuss the fact that President John F. Kennedy wanted Apollo to be a multinational mission, not a “space race.”

Highlights of the project include a talk with US Representative Joseph Kennedy III in October, who will reflect on President Kennedy’s famous quote, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

In November, Alex Gourevitch from Brown University will discuss Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil disobedience and his role in the 1968 revival of a long tradition that can be traced back through a century of labor protests.

In February, there will be a panel discussion on the evolution and development of spacesuits from both an engineering and historical and cultural point of view.

There are 20 events in the series, all of which are free and open to the public. To view a schedule of events, or share your own story, visit www.moon-landing.org.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.