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50 years after the moon landing Matera celebrates its connections with the Apollo 11 mission

By Marta Brambilla
50 years after the moon landing Matera celebrates its connections with the Apollo 11 mission

On July 1969 man stepped on lunar soil for the first time and all over the world celebrations are being held for the 50th anniversary of the occasion.

This year's European Capital of Culture, Matera, is hosting several events in honour of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

But was has the Italian city got to do with one of the most important events in human history?

The lunar celebrations in Matera start with the world premiere of the film "Luna Italiana," which was created and written by Renato Cantore, in honour of Rocco Petrone.

The son of Italian immigrants, who came from a small village near Matera, Rocco Petrone became a mechanical engineer in the US and made a fundamental contribution to Nasa's Apollo 11 mission.

"Rocco Petrone embodies what we call, 'the American Dream,'" says Renato Cantore.

"If we think that his parents were poor farmers who left Sasso di Castalda in 1921 and 48 years later their son becomes the head of the project for the Moon exploration: this is nothing but the American Dream!"

A truly magical evening in Matera

Everything being celebrated right now in Matera is about July 1969.

"When we saw the first man stepping on the Moon when he walked, jumped, that was something profound," says one visitor who remembers that famous evening.

Another recalls: "I followed what was happening, step by step. When he said he'd touched down on lunar soil, everyone got up to applauded."

The most important event of the lunar weekend is the multimedia performance of the Apollo Soundtrack.

It's the first time the 12-piece British band, The Icebreaker, have played the Apollo Soundtrack outside the United Kingdom.

"What you hear tonight is an arrangement made of an album that my brother, Brian, Danny Lanois and myself made in 1983," says musician and composer, Roger Eno.

"And this originally was a soundtrack for a film which was NASA footage, all original footage. But what this is turned into is something with a far greater life than we could have expected."

Roger says he's truly honoured to be in Matera:

"I have been to quite a few places in my life and this undoubtedly is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. So for me, this is a dream."

Journalist • Katy Dartford