From Hochschulstrasse 6 in Bern, it is 384’000 kilometers to the moon.
"So what," you might respond. But please stay with me, because this address is connected to the Apollo program in a very particular way.
The Solar Wind Composition Experiment
Back in the late 1960’s, the University of Bern was deeply involved in the first manned mission to the moon. It was Prof. Dr. Johannes Geiss and Peter Eberhardt of the Physics Department who developed the Solar Wind Composition Experiment (SWC), a sort of sail on top of a tripod to measure the solar winds.
The SWC made it from Bern all the way to the moon as part of the Apollo 11 Mission (and on further missions, too.) On July 16, 1969, at 3 AM local Swiss time, astronaut Buzz Aldrin stepped off the vessel with the experiment in hand. And even before the iconic placing of the US flag, he would stick the SWC into the lunar surface where it would remain for 77 minutes. The Solar Wind Composition experiment was the only non-American scientific experiment to make it to the moon at the time.
As one newspaper aptly described it: “A small piece of aluminum foil, a big leap for Bern.” Switzerland will be honoring the 50th anniversary of the first manned mission to the moon these days. Several events and exhibits related to the Apollo 11 Mission are taking place, so do not miss this opportunity to learn something.
Experience the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission in Switzerland
Kunsthaus Zürich (through June 30)
In celebration of the Apollo 11 anniversary, Kunsthaus Zurich has a special exhibit entitled Fly me to the Moon. On display are some 200 pieces related to the moon and the universe, mostly from post-WWII. Some topics are topography, moonlight and moon shadow or weightlessness.
Bern Historical Museum (June 19 - Oct 6)
The special exhibit "Bern on the Moon" puts the contributions of the University of Bern into a historical context. It runs from June 19 to Oct 6, 2019.
During this time, the museum offers a guided tour that covers the following topics: the Cold War and the "space race", the Apollo 11 Mission, the media response at the time, and the University of Bern’s scientific experiment.
For the fifth edition of this international space festival, founder Garik Israelian is bringing a full line-up of events to Zürich’s Samsung Hall. The aim of the festival is to inspire participants and to communicate space science through various means.
During the press conference, former Swiss astronaut, Claude Nicollier, summed up STARMUS V: "It is all about sharing the spirit of this extraordinarily adventure with the public. If you really want to do something, do it!"
There will be panel discussions with former Apollo astronauts such as Michael Collins and Charlie Duke. It is the philosophy of this festival to include not only moon walkers, but also Nobel Prize winners, physicists, performers and philosophers of all kind. One of the highlights of the opening night of STARMUS V will be the concert “Once Upon a Time on the Moon” with Hans Zimmer and Brian May.
Further highlights include the screening of the new Apollo 11 film, including a panel discussion. This documentary comprises of new footage from the NASA archives. And who knows, maybe Elon Musk will appear in person to accept the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication?
More information (University students will receive a 50% discount on the festival pass.)
Igluna Space Habitat in Zermatt (June 24 - 30)
At the foot of the Matterhorn, a team of researchers has been quietly building a space habitat concept. This is a unique opportunity to visit Igluna and all its exhibits at the Klein Matterhorn in Zermatt. Print out this overview map before you go.
In the Vernissage Art Gallery in Zermatt, there is a special exhibit where you will get to meet some of the project members. The exhibit is open from June 19 to 30.
From June 28 to July 4, Bern is hosting a scientific fair to pay tribute to the city’s contributions to Apollo 11. Here are some of the highlights:
June 28, 5:30 PM, Bundesplatz This is the official opening of the week-long anniversary. For the opening, the organizers have announced intergalactic sounds by Yokko, featuring Swiss musician Marius Bear.
June 29, 2 to 6 PM, Grosse Schanze This is your chance to build your own rocket from PET bottles and participate in a contest. Which rocket will fly the highest? Which one has the best design? This is a great event for inventors and spectators alike. Check this website for announcements in the case of bad weather.
June 29, 4 to 6 PM, Kursaal Did you know that the Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate of NASA is a Swiss? Prof. Thomas Zurbuchen will be speaking as part of a panel on the past and future of Switzerland’s role in space research. Limited seats are available - register for free.
June 29, from 7 PM, Grosse Schanze Gaze at the night sky and learn a lot about astronomy. There will be dozens of telescopes and cameras set up, as well as live feeds from the world’s biggest telescopes. But surely, the night’s highlight will be a giant physics experiment for all ages.
June 30, 10 AM to 7 PM, Bundesplatz For one day, Bern’s Bundesplatz will be turned into “Space Village” and there will be various activities for all ages. Sniff on a meteorite or learn about space junk.
Every day, the multimedia exhibit "3 - 2 - 1 - 0" will take you into the depths of the universe. One of the highlights on June 30 will surely be the concert by¨the local brass band Traktorkestar at 4 PM.
Here is an event for families: from 1 to 3 PM, the little ones will get to build their own rocket in the workshop. Alternatively, they can listen to space stories narrated by Brigitte Hirsig. The meeting point is at 1 PM directly at Museum Burghalde in Lenzburg. Prior registration by email or at 062 891 66 70.
AstroVal Observatory at Vallée de Joux (July 13)
During this special event starting at 9 PM, visit the AstroVal observatory for free. You will get to see the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and the rest of the summer sky. There will also be slideshows and videos about astronomy.
The Innovationspark in Dübendorf will be hosting the Liftoff to Space road show by the Swiss Space Museum. It is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 2 to 5 PM, as well as on Sundays from 11 AM to 5 PM. Here is a video walk-through by the initiator himself (in Swiss-German).
(Photograph copyright Swiss Space Museum)
Did I mention that there is a space unicorn waiting for your selfie?
On July 20, the Swiss Space Museum will host a fascinating talk at the KOSMOS theater in Zürich. In “Tribute to Apollo”, museum founder Guido Schwarz will take us on a journey in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and other Apollo astronauts.
The multimedia show will present videos, photos, original artifacts and anecdotes. (The event is held in German.) One of the highlights is a special guest, Jürg Meister. The latter was a physicist at the University of Bern involved in the development of the solar wind experiment.
The Swiss Transport Museum has some very interesting events lined up. Mere days before the first human stepped onto the moon, the Planetarium first opened its doors on July 1, 1969.
Inside the gigantic dome, you will get to experience a flight to the moon. The 45-minute show CapCom GO! highlights the space race as it played out between the US and the Soviet Union. (Through Aug 3)
In the Space Travel section, you can learn all about the Apollo Mission, as well as the history and technology for space exploration. And in the Media World, see what it is like to train to become an astronaut. Thanks to Augmented Reality and VR, you will experience the full journey from lift-off to moon-landing, and even a welcome parade in New York City.
On June 30 at 5 PM, Susanne Mecklenburg of the European Space Agency will host a concert. This mission leader is also a classically trained singer. Expect music, singing and stories about the moon during the special event, Over the Moon.