Lowell Observatory

U.S. Geological Survey

This week we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Everyone who walked on the moon first trained in Flagstaff. We’re hearing stories from the people who worked to make it happen. NASA estimates it took more than four hundred thousand people to get Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the moon. Baerbel and Ivo Lucchitta were two of them. A husband-and-wife team in Flagstaff, Ivo taught geology to astronauts at places like Sunset Crater and Meteor Crater, while Baerbel made detailed maps of the moon. As young scientists they’d studied the geology of Earth, but were swept up into the Space Age after hearing the unmistakable sound of Sputnik, the first satellite in space.

U.S. Geological Survey

This Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. In many ways that “one giant leap” onto the Moon started off in one small town in Arizona. Every astronaut who walked on the moon first came to Flagstaff to train, in its lunar-like landscape of volcanoes and craters. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports on Flagstaff’s yearlong celebration of its role in the historic moon landing.


Astronomers have found more than four thousand “extrasolar planets” beyond our solar system. Now a team including scientists at Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory have confirmed the discovery of the youngest known extrasolar planet. It’s a scorching-hot world many times larger than Jupiter. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with Lowell astronomer Lisa Prato about how this finding informs our understanding of how planets form.

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft beamed back the first close-up image of its target, Ultima Thule, revealing it’s a “contact binary”—two space rocks stuck together. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

This is the most primitive contact binary ever explored by a spacecraft. It likely formed four and a half billion years ago by a process called “accretion.” Particles of rock and rubble melded into two round objects, which then slowly spiraled together until they stuck.  


NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which visited Pluto three years ago, flew by another frozen world in the outer regions of the solar system last night. Ultima Thule is now the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft. Will Grundy of Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory is one of the scientists involved. He spoke with KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny from mission control in Maryland.