How to Replicate a Lunar Module on the Moon 

Posted on Wed, April 26, 2017

Lunar Module with protective railing on red carpet.

LM-2 on display in the Museum in 1976.

Image of the Lunar Module 2

LM-2 on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, 2016.

When the Museum’s Apollo Lunar Module (LM-2) moved to a prominent place in our Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall last year, it was an opportunity for us to examine the artifact in fine detail. We spared no effort to preserve, refurbish, and document the iconic object before it went on display in our central gallery in 2016.

Prior to being moved, LM-2 stood on a replica lunar surface at the east end of our building and was configured to represent a lunar module on the surface of the Moon. More specifically, we attempted to show LM-2 as LM-5 (Eagle) as it looked during Apollo 11. Over the years, thanks to consultation with knowledgeable technicians, we’ve learned more about the materials and techniques actually used to prepare lunar modules for a landing mission. With careful research and close examination of photography from the Apollo 11 mission, we have been able to refine the accuracy of the external appearance of our LM-2 to more and more closely represent the appearance of LM-5 (Eagle) on the Moon.

The process was painstaking and along the way we learned a lot. We were aided by artist and lunar module expert, Paul Fjeld, along with countless others. The following points to several examples where we were able to achieve enhanced detail and accuracy. 

Ascent Stage Panels

A major challenge was to reconcile, whenever possible, considerable differences between materials found on the lunar module’s ascent stage. What made our LM-2 different from the spacefaring LM-5? The panels on our ascent stage were made of 6 mil sulfuric acid anodized aluminum alloy. Because LM-2 was a test vehicle and was never expected to be exposed to the actual exhaust plumes from a Command and Service Module in space, many of the panels never received a coating of black Pyromark high-temperature paint. LM-5, on the other hand, did need this protection. Previous attempts to replicate the LM-5 pattern have been upgraded. Below is a diagram of the panels of LM-5, LM-2 before, and LM-2 after the reconfiguration.  

Diagram showing the different coatings on the lunar module.

This diagram illustrates the changes we made to LM-2. 


The footpads of LM-2 have been matched to those on LM-5 using high-resolution images taken on the lunar surface by the Apollo 11 astronauts. Our conservators studied the photographs and attempted to replicate every wrinkle they could see. The photograph on the left shows the footpad of LM-5 on the Moon. To the right is the footpad of LM-2.

Close up of the circular lunar module foot pad.

Eagle's footpad on the Moon. 

Close up detail of the circular footpad of the lunar module 2.

Footpad of the Museum's LM-2. 

Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly (MESA)/ TV Camera Lens

The MESA is the storage compartment provided just to the left (facing the hatch) of the ladder that descends from the ascent stage to the lunar surface. Once Neil Armstrong had stepped onto the porch, he was able to release and deploy the MESA using a rope and pulley system prior to beginning his descent to the surface.   The MESA contains tools and equipment used by the astronauts during the mission. However, perhaps just as important, the MESA also contained the TV camera that captured the first steps and broadcast them to people around the globe. The camera that captured the historic ladder descent is, of course, still on the Moon. What we have on our LM-2 MESA is a back-up lens. The lens on Eagle is difficult to see in the image below, but it is visible just above and to the left of the third rung of the ladder. 

Close up of the spacecraft's MESA.


Close up of the Museum's Lunar Module 2's MESA

The MESA found on the Museum's LM-2. 

Flag Carrier Stowage Assembly

 An important and symbolic occurrence during the Apollo 11 mission was the ceremonial deployment of an American flag. A special carrier to store and protect the flag during the descent to the surface was attached to the left side of the ladder. A precise replica of the actual carrier has been fabricated and attached to LM-2.  Expert model maker David Gianakos constructed the Flag Carrier Stowage Assembly using reference photos from NASA. As an added bonus, he placed a replica flag in the assembly even though visitors cannot see it.

Detail image of the lunar module on the Moon's surface.

LM-5 on the Moon. 

Detail view of the Museum's lunar module.

Gianakos’ replica flag carrier.

Commemorative Plaque

We also installed a replica of the ceremonial plaque that Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin uncovered during their lunar spacewalk. The actual plaque, which still resides on the Moon, was uncovered by the astronauts soon after stepping onto the lunar surface. Our replica is installed without its cover. The plaque reads:

JULY 1969, A.D.

The signatures of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Richard Nixon appear below the dedication.

Plaque on the LM-5 on the Moon.

The actual LM-5 plaque on the Moon. 

Close up of the Museum's lunar module plaque.

Replica plaque installed on LM-2. 

Landing Struts

The long struts that support the lunar module have been carefully configured to match LM-5, even reproducing the precise pattern and layout of the blankets and tape that surround each of the legs. As haphazard as it looks, the museum staff took care to mimic LM-5 precisely.

View of the landing struts of the lunar module on the Moon.

Landing struts on the LM-5. 

View of the lunar module's landing strut.

The landing struts on LM-2. 

EVA Antenna

Finally, because LM-2 was not expected to have to communicate with astronauts during space- or moon-walks. It was not equipped with an “EVA Antenna” (EVA is the NASA acronym for extravehicular activity). Using accurate drawings and specifications, Gianakos was called on again to carefully construct a replica.

Blurry photo an antenna on the lunar module.

A blurry, close-up image of the EVA antenna on LM-5.

Photograph of an antenna.

Antenna on LM-2. 

Throughout the months-long refurbishment, we took care to document each and every change we made for future researchers. We photographed and documented materials that had to be removed or replaced, because they either had deteriorated or did not accurately replicate LM-5. Missing or repositioned components were located or fabricated based on original lunar module specifications and designs. In the end, we’ve achieved a lunar module ready, at least in appearance, for a Moon landing. 

Diagram with arrows pointing to where changes were made to the spacecraft.

Diagram of the changes that were made to LM-2.