Smithsonian space exhibition to come to Heinz History Center
February 22, 2017 1:14 PM
Jessica Gresko/Associated Press
The Apollo 11 capsule sits in the restoration hanger at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., ahead of a planned four-city tour. The airplane at left is the only aircraft in the Smithsonian's collection that was stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
An upcoming exhibit at the Heinz History Center will celebrate the Apollo 11 mission that landed astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969. Here, Armstrong leads Aldrin and Michael Collins through the space center.
The Washington Post
An upcoming exhibit at the Heinz History Center will celebrate the Apollo 11 mission that landed astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969.
By Tracie Mauriello / Post-Gazette Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Apollo 11 command module Columbia spent 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds in space. It spent 46 years at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. And now it’s being prepped for a 142-day mission in Pittsburgh.
The module, which took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon, is the centerpiece of a four-city tour celebrating the approaching 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission ahead of the 2020 opening of a permanent Smithsonian exhibit on moon exploration in Washington.
The traveling exhibit begins Oct. 14 at Space Center Houston, then moves to the Saint Louis Science Center on April 14, 2018. It is scheduled to be at the Heinz History Center from Sept. 29, 2018, to Feb. 18, 2019, before its final tour stop at The Museum of Flight in Seattle. Following the tour, the module will return to the Air and Space Museum for placement in the new exhibit “Destination Moon.”
The tour will mark the first time the Columbia will leave the museum since it opened in 1976.
“Apollo 11 was one of the most important human space flights in the history of the whole space age,” exhibit curator Michael Neufeld said. “It paved the way for exploring the moon. Its mission was mainly just to show that we could do it — that we have the technology to explore the moon.”
Pittsburgh is a fitting stop on the tour, said Andrew Masich, president and CEO of Heinz History Center.
“It’s perfect for us because our theme is innovation,” he said.
Neil Armstrong leads Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins through the space center. (Keystone/Getty Images)
Not only that, but the Apollo 11 mission has ties to Pittsburgh. The Columbia was built in California by the Pittsburgh-based Rockwell International company, Alcoa built its aluminum components, ATI provided speciality steel, Westinghouse provided the cameras that provided the first videos of the lunar landing, and Mine Safety Appliance manufactured the astronauts’ breathing apparatus, Mr. Masich said.
The command module is the only part of the spacecraft that returned to earth after the mission.
“It’s the cone with the protective surface on it that allows it to barrel into the atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour and slow down through the friction of slamming into the atmosphere and parachuting into the ocean to be recovered,” Mr. Neufeld said.
The traveling exhibit will include an interactive three-dimensional digitized model that will make visitors feel like they are inside the module. It was created from high-resolution image scans that will reveal the smallest details not otherwise visible to museum goers.
That includes newly discovered astronaut graffiti from the module’s lower equipment bay, an area below the astronauts’ seats that museum curators had not previously explored.
“There’s a calendar where they crossed off days, and next to the computer pads there’s a bunch of notes about a particular maneuver they were doing,” Mr. Neufeld said. Visitors can zoom in on those details and manipulate the digital model to view the instrument panel and different parts of the bay.
“It gives people to go inside and look around in a virtual way,” he said.
The traveling exhibit also includes the helmet and gloves Mr. Aldrin wore on his moon walk, one of the two boxes used to carrying lunar samples back to Earth, the Omega Speedmaster chronograph watch that astronaut Michael Collins wore during the mission, and a survival kit with a machete, radio, water, sunglasses, medical supplies and water desalinization tools meant to be used if the return mission went wrong and astronauts landed in a remote jungle or ocean far from their target.
“It’s really interesting to be able to create an exhibit for a new generation of people who may only know about the moon landing from high school history. It’s exciting to be able to bring the command module around the country and five people a chance to look at it,” Mr. Neufeld said.
Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-996-9292 or @pgPoliTweets.
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