Out of This World

Spacefest IV, May 30-June 3, JW Marriott Starr Pass

What do Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Gene Cernan, Charlie Duke, Edgar Mitchell and Dave Scott have in common?

If you said they're all astronauts, you're right. They're also six of the nine living members of one of the most exclusive clubs ever: men who have walked on the moon. And they all will be in Tucson for Spacefest IV, an annual gathering of space enthusiasts with an interest in manned exploration, commercial space travel and the history of space travel.

The event will be held at the J.W. Marriot Star Pass Resort, with most convention events set for June 1-3.

Why is Tucson hosting the event?

"Tucson has a number of advantages," Kim Poor, one of the event's organizers, said in an email. "Tucson and the University (of Arizona) are on the cutting-edge of astronomy and space science." And "our venue, the Starr Pass Resort, is superior in location, amenities, facilities and raw desert beauty."

The convention includes dozens of speakers, including astronomers, planetary scientists and project managers for various interplanetary spacecraft. Pioneer Apollo and Mercury astronauts will participate in panel discussions, will sign autographs and will have their photos taken with fans for a fee.

"The astronauts are happy to chat with collectors and pose for photos with fans from around the world," Poor said.

Astronaut biographies and autograph fees are listed on the Spacefest website.

Poor said astronauts with Tucson ties who will attend the conference include space-shuttle astronaut Don McMonagle, now an executive at Raytheon; and Charlie Walker of Oro Valley, who has been on four shuttle flights. Other astronauts at the event with Arizona ties will include Richard Gordon of Prescott, who flew on Apollo 12.

Actors who have appeared in films about space also will be on hand, including Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica.

The event includes luncheons, a dinner banquet and a breakfast at which guests can break bread with astronauts and other speakers. Also on tap are a golf tournament, an auction of space memorabilia and book-signings. Topics at the seminars and panel discussions will range from astronomy to the future of space exploration.

Scott Carpenter will be on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his Mercury 7 flight in 1962. You can also meet Gene Cernan, who has the distinction of being the last person to have walked on the moon. It was 40 years ago, as part of the Apollo 17 flight.

Walt Cunningham, a pilot aboard the first Earth-orbit Apollo flight, will attend, as will Al Worden, the command-module pilot for Apollo 15. Several other space-shuttle astronauts and test pilots will also join in the festivities.

Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon, which was developed into the Emmy award-winning HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, will deliver the keynote speech during the banquet on June 2. He will also moderate the Apollo astronaut panel on June 3.

The convention also includes an art show featuring works by renowned space artists. Original paintings, giclées, prints and posters will be offered for sale.

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