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Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, a unit of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, held a dedication ceremony for a new NC Highway Historical Marker on March 18.

The marker commemorates Morehead’s history as a center for NASA astronaut training in the 1960s and early 1970s. Sixty-two astronauts, including 11 men who walked on the moon, came to Morehead to learn about celestial navigation as they prepared for their space missions.

Morehead served astronauts who flew in Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions, said Todd Boyette, planetarium director.

“The astronaut training program is really a fascinating part of Morehead’s legacy to North Carolina,” Boyette said. “When you walk into our planetarium, you’re walking in the footsteps of men who walked on the moon.”

The astronaut training program was developed by the late Anthony “Tony” Jenzano, who served as Morehead’s director from 1959 to 1981.

Jenzano and his staff developed training modules and tools to help prepare the astronauts in case they needed to navigate through space using visible space objects as “skymarks” to pinpoint their position. The astronauts encountered emergency situations that required their Morehead training on three missions — Mercury-Atlas 9, Apollo 12 and Apollo 13.

Morehead displayed memorabilia from the astronaut training program at a reception following the dedication ceremony. The NC Highway Historical Marker program is administered by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Published March 18, 2015.