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How to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing in Sydney This Summer

Like moonwalking on NASA's version of a jumping castle.
By Matt Abotomey
October 29, 2018
By Matt Abotomey
October 29, 2018


in partnership with

Like moonwalking on NASA's version of a jumping castle.

British comedian Eddie Izzard once suggested humanity reaching the moon was proof that God didn't exist. "Because," Izzard says, "if you invent some creatures, put them on the blue one and they make it to the grey one, you f***ing well turn up and say well done."

Well, whether it was missed by any celestial beings upstairs or not, if you're keen to commemorate all things space and reminisce about our voyage into infinity and beyond, make tracks to Sydney Festival to celebrate 50 years since the moon landing. From gravity-defying aerial performances to cosmos-themed installations, we've jotted down some of the best ways to explore the city and commemorate that time we got to "the grey one" half a century ago. And what's more, each lunar happening below is completely free.

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    Fly Me to the Moon

    Rocket travel — we’ve been there, done that. It’s time to forgo that needle-shaped fuel suck and come up with a new vessel to traverse the starry abyss. In reply, Sydney Festival admits it’s been studying other modes of space transport… like the bicycle. It’s 384,400 kilometres to the moon and the festival wants us to make the distance with pedal power. Hey, if that kid in ET managed to ride into the sky (and he even had an alien in his front basket), surely we’re onto something.

    Stop by World Square and clock up a few kilometres on Sydney-based arts company Erth’s latest invention, the Lunar Velocipede. Alternatively, ‘donate’ some of the kilometres you’ve ridden on your terra-bikes and help the city escape orbit. The Apollo 11 crew made the journey in three days, you’ve got two and a half weeks. Best get limber before blastoff.

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    Bayala Free Language Courses

    If you’re looking to learn something this SydFest, head to the Sydney Observatory and soak in some stars while expanding your vocabulary. During the one-hour Bayala language class, Durag woman Aunty Jacinta Tobin and Gadigal man Joel Davison will be teaching participants one of Sydney’s native Indigenous languages. Attendees will learn Indigenous names for locations around Sydney, a few anatomical terms, basic phrases and a short song. Perhaps you can even learn to say, “Happy 50 years, Amstrong”.

    This is the third year the classes have run and each time the convenors have been blown away by the response. In fact, there are a few additional sessions for those who are returning and want to take things up a notch. The classes are free but if you’re interested, book early. You’d be surprised how many linguists will pose as amateur astronomers just to steal your seat.

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    As we commemorate the gents who first traipsed across the lunar surface, it’s not a bad opportunity to think back on a few of the earlier Apollo missions. Remember Apollo 3, the unmanned mission to test whether or not NASA could successfully restart the ship’s engines? Or Apollo 7, the first live TV broadcast from space? No, we don’t either.

    The truth is, during the space race, a whole bunch of people did a whole bunch of crazy things to pave the way for the Armstrong/Aldrin moonwalk. To recognise these lesser-known space odysseys, SydFest has commissioned 11 cosmos-themed works for Barangaroo. With a combination of sculpture, interactive installations and roaming performers, this is a great chance to delve into some of the leaps that made Neil’s ‘small step’ possible 50 years ago.

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    Moon Drops

    It’s hard to watch footage of astronauts gallivanting on the moon — with their lack of surefootedness and giddy delight — and not want to have a go. Unfortunately, there’s a decided lack of accessible planetoids for us non-astronauts to do it on. Well, earth dwellers, we’ve found an experience that will get you kinda close.

    Moon Drops is like NASA’s version of a jumping castle — humongous black globules that allow you to feel what it would be like to run across a droplet of water, which we imagine feels a lot like the moon. Yep, international designers Jasmax has collaborated with Alt Group and the Auckland Council Public Arts to bring the joys of space to Darling Harbour for us all to try. Don’t forget to play The Police’s hit ‘Walking on the Moon’ to get you prepped for your moonwalking debut.

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    Heliosphere — The Dream Engine

    If you’re keen to experience space-like gravity-defying action here on earth, get set for Heliosphere. The ethereal performance will see an illuminated helium-filled sphere taking an aerialist 20 metres into the air in Parramatta during Circus Comes to Town. From a height that would ensure a sticky end if sudden re-entry were initiated, the airborne artist will perform a series of spins and twists in the moon-shaped contraption.

    In 1965, astronaut Ed White concluded the first American spacewalk by saying, “I’m coming back in… and it’s the saddest moment of my life”. Space is vast and dangerous, but Heliosphere is a reminder of the tremendous beauty that can result when risk is embraced.

    For those who’d like to experience weightlessness and free fall as they do in space, Sydney Trapeze School will be running flying trapeze classes in Parramatta for $50, as will acrobatics school Aerialize in the courtyard of Riverside Theatres for $10.

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    MAAS and the Moon

    How do you get a rocket to the moon? You point the rocket at the moon and press the big red button, right? Most of us have a rather oversimplified view of space travel; it’s not our fault, they made it look easy enough in Star Trek. Fortunately, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences is not here to facepalm at our lack of knowledge. Instead, it’s delved into the archives and hauled out a fascinating array of astronomical tools and space-related oddities for an exhibition at Riverside Theatre.

    From astrophotographs, Copernican gadgets and lunar-inspired ceramics, this is a collection designed to press home the complexities of galactic gallivanting. If you’ve just finished one of Aerialize’s trapeze classes in the theatre’s courtyard and you feel a little woozy, stick your head in the door and meander through MAAS and the Moon.


Sydney Festival 2019 takes place January 9–27, 2019. Check out the full festival program and book tickets here.


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