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Festivities continue today aboard the USS Hornet to celebrate 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 mission

'Women in Space' panel, model rocketry display highlight Sunday's events

Festivities will continue today aboard the USS Hornet as part of the aircraft carrier's 40th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 mission.

Sunday will feature a "Women In Space" panel discussion and interactive activities such as a spacesuit demonstration, artifacts table and model rocketry table.

Yesterday, astronaut Buzz Aldrin gave a presentation and signed copies of his new book, Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon, a book that is available for purchase at today's events.

The USS Hornet recovered Aldrin and the other Apollo 11 astronauts from the ocean on July 20, 1969, after they returned to Earth from the first lunar landing.

This weekend's event, called "Splashdown 2009," is a three-day festival that includes Apollo exhibits, book signings, and presentations from NASA and Navy personnel, including men who participated directly in the recovery.

"Apollo 11 was one of the most momentous events of the 20th Century, of humankind, and we are its biggest artifact," said Pete Sutherland, the director of education and chief operating officer of the USS Hornet Museum.

Sutherland explained that the USS Hornet waited about 12 miles away from the Apollo 11 capsule's landing spot and tracked its decent to the ocean.

A group of Navy SEALS then recovered the capsule with a helicopter, decontaminated the astronauts, and brought them to a quarantine chamber on the USS Hornet, where President Richard Nixon was waiting.

"Neil Armstrong's first steps back on Earth are painted on our hangar bay," Sutherland said. "The [Splashdown 2009 event lets you connect to history in a way you can't do by reading about it or watching a program. It's a rare opportunity to meet the men who were on the ship."

A schedule of events can be found at http://www.uss-hornet.org/posters/splashdown/schedule.shtml.

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News, Jeb Bing

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