The Rocket That Took Humans to the Moon Will Be Projected on the Washington Monument Next Week

Artist’s rendering of the Washington Monument projection of a Saturn V rocket that will take place next week
Artist’s rendering of the Washington Monument projection of a Saturn V rocket that will take place next week
Illustration: Fifty Nine Productions/Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

The 50th anniversary of the Moon landing is coming up on July 20 and there are events being held all around Washington D.C. to celebrate. One of the coolest events will be at the Washington Monument, where a full-scale, 363-foot Saturn V rocket will be digitally projected on the landmark as a 17-minute show about the Apollo 11 mission plays on screens nearby.


The event, which is free to the public, was commissioned by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and is being produced by Fifty-Nine Productions in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior. Boeing and Raytheon are also contributing funds.

“Our identity as Americans is defined in part by the historic act of landing humans on the moon and returning them safely to the Earth,” Ellen Stofan, a director at the Air and Space Museum, said in a press release. “The Washington Monument is a symbol of our collective national achievements and what we can and will achieve in the future.”

The projection on the east face of the Washington Monument will be visible on July 16, 17, and 18 from 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm as a preview before the full show in the following days. The main attraction, titled “Apollo 50: Go for the Moon,” will take place on July 19 and 20, and shows will run at 9:30 pm, 10:30 pm, and 11:30 pm.

“It took 400,000 people from across the 50 states to make Apollo a reality,” Stofan said. “This program celebrates them, and we hope it inspires generations too young to have experienced Apollo firsthand to define their own moonshot.”

From Fifty-Nine Productions:

‘Apollo 50: Go for the Moon’ is a free-admission, large-scale public event across two evenings and an unmissable opportunity to see the Washington Monument transformed with a brand new projection-mapping artwork that will combine archive footage and bespoke animations to tell the remarkable story of the first lunar landing for an audience of thousands, watching on from the National Mall. Using cutting-edge technology, a 17-minute animated artwork will be projected onto Washington’s iconic obelisk and surrounding screens. The artwork celebrates the hundreds and thousands of people who worked tirelessly to make this extraordinary mission possible. Their dedication along with those of their successors have allowed remarkable advancements in space exploration over the past fifty years, giving truth to the statement that: the sky is no longer the limit.


The projection needed Congressional approval and passed both the House and the Senate unanimously last month. President Donald Trump signed the resolution on July 5, but there doesn’t appear to be any plan for the president to make an appearance.

“Almost 50 years ago, the Apollo 11 mission captivated the world as two American astronauts were the first to step foot on the moon, forever changing space exploration,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a press release.


“Through House Joint Resolution 60, Congress requested a one-time series of arrangements for displays on the National Mall and the Washington Monument to showcase this incredible achievement in our nation’s history, and we’re pleased to partner with the National Air and Space Museum so all can relive the moment.”

The Air and Space Museum has set up a texting service to provide updates about the show. People are encouraged to text Apollo50GO to 888777 for live updates.


Matt Novak is a senior writer at Gizmodo and founder of He's writing a book about the movies U.S. presidents watched at the White House, Camp David, and on Air Force One.


Dense non aqueous phase liquid

Not to make folks watch PBS or anything, but our nation’s esteemed public interest network is running a “Summer of Space” series this week and next. One of the shows called “Chasing the Moon” is very well done. It’s a soup to nuts account of the Apollo space program in several episodes.

Here’s one very interesting take away. We like to use “moonshot” as an analogy for pretty much any big endeavor needing promotion (or government funding) these days. Like say the Green New Deal is our era’s moonshot to fight climate change. The narrative becomes something like this: Kennedy declared we will land on the moon by the end of the de-cade. Then we landed on the moon in July 1969. Mission accomplished. The aspiration of one young politician was all that was needed to git r’ done.

What was discussed in the program Chasing the Moon was all the politics, marketing, arm-twisting and endless number of pork projects given to red states that had to be done for Apollo funding. Scientists, engineers and astronauts alike were told to sell the shit out of the program. We’re talking the original seller doers here. (Most engineers and scientists eventually become seller doers whether they know it or not at a certain age.) We really have James Webb to thank. Man, he was a political mastermind. We also have to thank Walter Cronkite for nerding out on the program. The dude could really sell.