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Command Module Columbia in 3D

Posted on Wed, July 20, 2016
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Very few have seen the inside of the Apollo 11 command module Columbia in fine detail; have pored over its vast array of switches, buttons, and knobs; or peered under the same seats that astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins found respite on during their six-day mission.

Until now. In partnership with the Smithsonian Digital Program Office (DPO), we all have access to the most detailed view of the inside and outside of the command module Columbia. Using state-of-the-art 3D scanning and photogrammetry, DPO captured the real artifact in such high detail that every bolt and thread can be seen.

To guide your exploration, Curator Allan Needell has created custom tours. Here are six must-see stops on the tour.

Screenshot of the Apollo 11 Command Module Docking 3D rendering.                                   

Interior Tour 

Stop #4 - Docking Tunnel
Before landing on the Moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to make their way through this passageway. Columbia’s forward docking tunnel entrance was used to transfer astronauts to and from the lunar module when the two were docked.

Stop #9 - Commander’s Controls
Mission Commander Neil Armstrong sat on this left-hand couch. As the commander, Armstrong was in charge of subsystems including stabilization and control, propulsion, crew safety, Earth landing, and emergency detection. From this view you can see flight controls, the main display console, and one of two guidance and navigation computer panels.

Stop #25 - A Hand-Drawn Calendar
Command Module Pilot Michael Collins drew this small calendar on a wall below one of the lockers. Each day of the Apollo 11 mission is crossed out except for landing day, July 24.

Screenshot of the EVA handles from the 3D of the command module Columbia.

Exterior Tour

Stop #10 - Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Handles
These handles were used for planned, or unplanned, spacewalks. Each handle has a smaller bar where an EVA tether could be attached. The handle supports also include radio luminescent disks to enhance visibility. These glow-in-the-dark disks are slightly radioactive.

Stop #12 - Waste Management System
These unassuming nozzles were used to expel liquid waste into space. The white, semi-spherical nozzle on the left was used to expel urine. The nozzle on the right expelled wastewater. Heaters, controlled from a panel inside the spacecraft, prevented ice from forming on the nozzles.

Stop #21 - Forward Compartment
The components contained in this compartment were critical to a safe splashdown. The forward compartment is covered by the forward heat shield or apex cover and includes the Earth landing and recovery subsystem (ELS)—including parachutes and equipment for locating the command module once it had landed in the ocean.

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