Celebrations are already underway to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the first steps taken by humans on the moon.
July 20 is the official anniversary day, but United Airlines and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport are among the groups that have a planned more than a month’s worth of activities to mark the lunar milestone.
Win a seat on a special United Airlines celebration flight
Top among the events is a special flight from Newark to Houston on July 17, the anniversary of the day astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Buzz Aldrin made their first TV transmission from Earth to space.
On that day, United Flight 355 from Newark Liberty International Airport to Houston will be a celebratory flight with space-themed entertainment, inflight gifts and special guests who have been to space.
Want to go along? United is hosting a social media contest on Twitter with a prize that includes seats on board the Apollo 11 celebration flight as well as a behind the scenes tour of NASA facilities in Houston. Deadline to enter is June 22, 2019 at 10:29 a.m. CT.
Click here for rules on enterting United’s contest.
Beginning July 1, members of United’s Mileage Plus mileage program can bid miles on space-themed experiences such as VIP access to Space Center Houston’s Apollo 11 50thAnniversary Celebration featuring the band Walk the Moon. More information on that here.
No contest entry needed for these Apollo 11 activities:
There’s more: Starting July 1, seatback and personal device entertainment on United flights will include a channel with dedicated space-related program from NASA, including action cam footage of astronaut spacewalks.
In United’s Terminal C and E at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), there are lots of activities planned as well:
In Terminal C, gate lounges will display digital photographs from the Apollo 11 mission on the monitors.
From July 9-11 Space Center Houston will provide Apollo 11-themed pop-up science labs in the terminals. In the United Clubs, customers will have a chance to meet and take photos with retired Astronaut Ken Cameron.
During July, travelers will also have a chance to eat like an astronaut at In United Airlines’ at two restaurants at IAH, one in Terminal C and one in Terminal E.
What did the astronauts eat?
Between liftoff and touchdown back on earth, astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins were running experiments, taking pictures, gathering samples and making history.
They also took time to eat.
“More than 70 items comprise the food selection list of freeze-dried rehydratable, wet-pack and spoon-bowl foods,” NASA explains in the 250-page typewritten press kit for the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission on July 6, 1969.
The press kit lists the day-by-day, meal-by-meal menu for each crewman and explains how some of the meals were prepared.
“After water has been injected into a food bag, it is kneaded for about three minutes. The bag neck is then cut off and the food squeezed into the crewman ‘s mouth,” the release explains.
Freeze-dried ice-cream isn’t on the list, but powdered fruit-drinks (not Tang; NASA doesn’t use brand names), along with bacon cubes, shrimp cocktail, beef stew, frankfurters, fruit cocktail, tuna salad and many other familiar foods are.
“Familiar foods, or even just fresh foods, are often hugely satisfying in space for the memories they trigger and warm feelings they generate,” said Jennifer Levasseur, Museum Curator, Department of Space History at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which has 13 packets of food the Apollo 11 astronauts didn’t eat.
Like modern day travelers, food is one of the few things astronauts can control during a journey far from home. “Food must have had a very important role on Apollo 11 because they were doing things that had never been done before,” said Vickie Kloeris, NASA Food Scientist Emeritus.
Dine like an astronaut
Many of the foods found on those original Apollo 11 menus are featured during July on a special menu at OTG’s Ember Tavern and Tanglewood Grille in United Airlines’ Terminal C and E at IAH.
To ensure authenticity, OTG’s culinary team visited NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory in Houston to learn about and taste food prepared by NASA’s food scientists.
“We wanted to understand what food meant to astronauts having that experience and what it means now,” said Dan O’Donnell, OTG’s Head of Culinary, “We wanted to know the science and philosophy behind space food; where they were then and where it is now.”
The biggest take-away, said O’Donnell was that the astronauts could choose a lot of the foods they wanted to eat. “It wasn’t just about sustenance. Much of it was food that reminded the astronauts of home; like beef and potatoes, tuna salad and sugar cookies. Our menu is a play on those items.”
Travelers who order from the Apollo 11-inspired IAH menu won’t be served meals that need to be reconstituted and squeezed into their mouths from bags. Nor will they find 1969 prices.
Instead they’ll find modern-day versions of many menu items from the Apollo 11 mission.
“For instance, our take on the Tuna Salad uses seared ahi instead of regular tuna, but we prepared it in the same way with walnuts, grapes, celery, apple and some fresh yogurt,” said O’Donnell, “The Beef & Potatoes is made with grilled ribeye, scalloped potatoes and parsley pesto.
Although there was no alcohol on Apollo 11, there’s are cocktails on the IAH Apollo 11 anniversary menu.
“The original menus said, ‘orange drink,’ ‘grapefruit drink’ or ‘citrus drink.’ They were very flavor focused and on the sweeter side, because people taste things differently in space,” said Allison Kafalas, OTG Beverage Director, “I took those flavors and translated them to cocktails that are a bit more relevant and modern for today’s eater, including a peach bellini, a martini using an orange vodka from Texas and a pineapple margarita.”