How an HBCU hosted the inaugural International Moon Day celebration

July 27, 2022

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Apollo 11 spacecraft and accomplished what no person on Earth had ever done before – walk on the moon.

For the first time since 1969, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 20 as International Moon Day, to annually observe at the international level the anniversary of humankind’s first steps on the moon and to raise public awareness about sustainable moon exploration.

Moon Village Association Group, with Lockheed Martin’s support as a founding sponsor, tapped Drake State Community and Technical College – a Historically Black Community College – to host and livestream the inaugural International Moon Day celebration.

The college stood centerstage as the official host site as more than 20 countries commemorated the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

"Huntsville was one of a handful of birthplaces of the space program,” said John C. Mankins, Moon Village Association Vice President. “Where better to celebrate that history? Our future in space will only be accomplished by a foundation of well-educated, motivated, and optimistic young people — including engineers, technicians, scientists, and more. Where better to draw the world’s attention than Drake State Community and Technical College?"

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center selected Drake State as a collaborator in the Moon-to-Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technology project in 2021.

Then came opportunities with the Moon Village Association to immerse students in space exploration and help minority and female youth take their first steps in STEM careers.

And Drake State NASA interns are figuring out how engineers can use a robotic arm to 3D print large-scale items such as bed frames, wall panels, brackets, and vents in space.

“If you talk to any astronaut who had been lucky to travel into space, they would tell you that our fragile planet needs all of our might and strength to pull together our resources and work in tandem as one to face all the problems we see today,” said Dr. Nasr Alsahhaf, International Moon Day Group Chair and advisor to the Royal Private Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. “We want to galvanize this cooperation between nations, especially the young generations between the ages of 10 and 30, and inspire them to delve into science and prepare to think seriously about their careers working on the moon for extended periods of time in the not-so-far future.”

For nearly as long as NASA has been in existence, Drake State students have worked to diversify the science and technology fields. This underscores the influence that historically Black institutions play in helping NASA send the first woman and first person of color to the moon. For example, Drake State NASA interns are figuring out how engineers can use a robotic arm to 3D print large-scale items such as bed frames, wall panels, brackets, and vents in space.

"Drake State represents both literally and metaphorically the tremendous opportunities that the 'new space age’ — the ‘Moon Age’, if you will — offers to persons of color and to women in the US, as well as to individuals around the world to join in and to be a part of the future," said Mankins.