HOUSTON, Texas (KLTV) - On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, more than 15 thousand visitors were expected to celebrate the history-making moment at Space Center Houston on Saturday.
The day began with a grand entrance of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachuting into the event carrying a special Apollo 11 anniversary flag.
14-year-old Austin DeSisto and his mother came all the way from Boston and are soaking up every second in Space City.
“I mean, I just want to kind of re-live the experience and I want to feel like I was there,” Austin said.
This day has been on his mind for weeks.
“For the launch, I blared the countdown all over my neighborhood so everybody could hear it,” Austin said.
Sporting a space-themed shirt and NASA socks, he says this is a passion he wears on his sleeve. His friends know all about this fascination.
"A lot of times I share facts with them, like, 'Hey there's a launch today. Or you want to come over and watch the launch with me?"
Austin’s mother says she’s really taking an interest in the historic side of the space program. Her uncle worked at NASA during the Apollo program and has been an inspiration for Austin.
“His passion is kind of taking over our family. My twitter feed is focused on space now,” said Christy Desisto.
Christy and other visitors will get an up-close look at all the exhibits at Space Center Houston, like the Apollo 17 command module and artifacts in the lunar rock vault.
Dana Johnson didn't travel as far to be here.
He lives in Tyler and has been following the space program since his childhood.
"I actually watched the first steps on the moon live when I was seven years old,” Johnson said.
He knew he had to celebrate this important milestone while immersed in history.
"Not only what happened back in the Apollo days, but also what they have in store for the coming years,” Johnson said.
Even though Austin wasn’t alive at the time, the moon missions launched the rising high school freshman’s interest in physics and technology.
"What could we do today, with the technology we had back then, advancing that to what we have today. I mean, going back to the moon in 2024."
Others loaded onto the Space Center Houston tram to visit a Saturn V rocket on permanent display, as well as the recently-renovated historic Mission Operations Control Room 2.
Saturday afternoon, visitors sat in on a Lunar Module Landing Operations panel and a lecture by Apollo-era flight controllers.
The Astronaut Gallery, another permanent exhibit, features a comprehensive collection of spacesuits from the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs.
A pop-up STEM zone exposed young people to science-themed activities, hoping to to inspire a new generation of future astronauts, engineers, and flight controllers.
After sunset, a concert featuring Walk the Moon and Phillip Phillips counted down to the historic first step on the moon at 9:56 p.m.