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NASA Celebrates Apollo 11’s 45th Anniversary and Next Giant Leaps

Image: Bootprint on the moon

This is an image of Buzz Aldrin's bootprint from the Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon on July 20, 1969. NASA

On July 20, 1969, the world watched as Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the Eagle lunar module and stepped outside onto a barren moonscape. Buzz Aldrin followed him out the door, and they became the first humans ever to walk on the moon. All the while, their crewmate, Michael Collins, sat in a lonely orbit around moon in the Columbia command module.

The three Apollo 11 astronauts launched toward the moon on July 16, 1969, and returned heroes in a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on July 24. Only 10 more people would ever put their boots on powdery moon dirt (said to smell like gunpowder), and no humans have returned since Apollo 17 blasted off the lunar surface on Dec. 14, 1972.

July 20, 2014, marks the 45th anniversary of the first moonwalk. NASA has planned a slew of events to reflect on the historic landing and look ahead to the future of space exploration. [NASA's Historic Apollo 11 Moon Landing in Pictures]

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25th Anniversary of the Moon Landing 4:15

Here's a sampling of events hosted by NASA and other space-minded organizations that you can participate in virtually or in person:

Friday, July 18

1:30 p.m. ET: Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman will be live on NASA TV from the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to talk about the future of space exploration. Reid Wiseman, a NASA astronaut who is currently living (and prolifically tweeting) on the International Space Station, will participate from orbit.

3 p.m. ET: Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin will be in conversation with NASA astronaut Mike Massimino at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York. The event is part of the Intrepid Space and Science Festival, which takes place from Thursday to Sunday.

Sunday, July 20

8:30 p.m. ET: The Slooh Community Observatory will broadcast high-definition footage of the waning crescent moon from Dubai while astronomers and special guests talk about little-known Apollo stories and debunk conspiracy theories about the landing. Participants will include filmmaker Duncan Copp, who has produced and directed documentaries about the Apollo program, and science journalist Andrew Chaikin, whose book "A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts" inspired an HBO miniseries co-produced by Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.

10:39 p.m. ET: NASA will mark the exact moment Neil Armstrong opened the spacecraft hatch to take his first step on the lunar surface. NASA TV will replay the restored footage of the historic moonwalk.

Monday, July 21

10 a.m. ET: NASA TV will broadcast the renaming ceremony of the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which processed and tested the command, service and lunar modules during the Apollo program. The building will be named for Armstrong, who died in 2012. Participants will include NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Armstrong's Apollo 11 crewmates, Collins and Aldrin.

NASA's Glenn Research Center will kick off a week of events as part of its Space Adventure Week. The schedule includes talks by astronaut Doug Wheelock and engineers working on Orion, NASA's next deep-space exploration capsule. You can find the full list of events here: http://www.greatscience.com/exhibits/nasa-glenn-visitor-center/space-adventure-week.aspx

Thursday, July 24

6 p.m. ET: On the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11's return to Earth, NASA will tap into the geekery of Comic-Con International in San Diego with a panel called NASA's Next Giant Leap. The discussion will be moderated by actor Seth Green and will feature Aldrin, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green, "Mohawk Guy" Bobak Ferdowsi, and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke.

— Megan Gannon, Space.com

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