New Zealand space fans celebrate moon landing

On this day fifty years ago, American astronauts were hours away from landing on the moon.

At the time it was branded an impossible mission - now it's considered by many to be the greatest human achievement of all time.

On Saturday, some of New Zealand's biggest space fans gathered for a special party to celebrate the anniversary.

"It doesn't get much bigger than that. I think world peace will be the only bigger achievement - if and when that happens," space commentator Matthew Pavletich told Newshub.

Today they're watching the new Apollo 11 movie that has unseen footage from the big day back in 1969.

"Space geeks like me know that they almost aborted the landing because the relatively primitive computer of the lunar module was split into two halves - one for descent, one for ascent and they shouldn't have left the other one on and its memory got overcrowded,"  Pavletich says.

Jeff Green is also a self-described space geek. He has a ledger of every manoeuvre Apollo 11 made.

"They were cool, calm and collected," he says. "Their heart rates were being monitored from mission control by the in-flight surgeon and he said at one point that their heart rate was so slow he thought they were going to fall asleep at the controls."

This weekend is so special that Green even brought along his prized, signed, crew portrait of all three Apollo 11 astronauts.

It's believed to be the only one in New Zealand and he was once offered $35,000 for it. But he won't sell it, saying it's invaluable.

So 50 years on, what can eclipse the moon landing?

"For me personally? First person on Mars," Green says.

And with NASA trying to get to the moon again by 2024, the race is on.