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Apollo Program

Thu, July 21 2016

Curator’s Dilemma: Displaying the Lunar Module

The Museum’s Lunar Module LM-2 represents a dilemma, at least for the current generation of Smithsonian curators and conservators. What stages of its history are most important, and how should it to be presented to the public?

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Image of the Lunar Module from the second floor.
Wed, July 20 2016

Command Module Columbia in 3D

In partnership with the Smithsonian Digital Program Office (DPO), we all now 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.

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Command Module Columbia in 3D

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Screenshot of the EVA handles from the 3D of the command module Columbia.
Fri, July 15 2016

Launching an Apollo 11 Anniversary Celebration

“We know it will be a good ride,” Astronaut Neil Armstrong said. He was responding to well wishes from the NASA launch operations manager just 15 seconds before automatic sequence. And he was right. It was a good ride.

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Wide shot of Apollo 11 launch.
Fri, March 11 2016

The "Rope Mother" Margaret Hamilton

A few years after graduating from Earlham College with a BA in Mathematics, Margaret Hamilton soon found herself in charge of software development and production for the Apollo missions to the Moon at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. Her work was critical to the success of the six voyages to the Moon between 1969 and 1972. In a male-dominated field, Hamilton became known as the “Rope Mother,” which was an apt description for her role and referred to the unusual way that computer programs were stored on the Apollo Guidance Computers.

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Margaret Hamilton
Wed, March 9 2016

How We Saw the Moon: Top Ten Apollo Images

On February 26, 2016, we opened our latest exhibition of imagery, A New Moon Rises, in our Art Gallery.

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Surveyor III Precision Landing
Fri, February 26 2016

A New Moon Rises: An Exhibition Where Science and Art Meet

Scientific images can rival those of the most talented artists, a fact that is now on display in A New Moon Rises at our Museum in Washington, DC. Take, for example, an image of Reiner Gamma, a beautiful and strange feature on the Moon that looks as though a tadpole has been painted across the flat surface of Oceanus Procellarum. The image demonstrates the phenomenon of lunar swirls – bright patterns that some scientists believe may result from the solar wind striking the lunar soil. A localized magnetic field anomaly may have given this swirl its peculiar shape. The photo is densely packed with scientific information.

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Far Side Mosaic
Thu, February 11 2016

Apollo 11: The Writings on the Wall

Last year I wrote about the Armstrong purse, discovered by Neil Armstrong’s widow, Carol, in their home shortly after Neil’s death in 2012. That stowage bag of small (but historically significant) items from the first lunar landing was a reminder that the story of Apollo 11 continues to be told as new details emerge in unexpected places. Recently, we have again been reminded that a curator’s work is never done. During the course of a project to produce a detailed 3D model of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, we were able to observe and record some hand-written notes and markings in areas of the spacecraft that have been hidden from view for more than 40 years.

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Calendar inside the Apollo 11 Command Module
Tue, February 9 2016

A Most Interesting Man on the Moon: Remembering Edgar D. Mitchell

On Thursday, February 4, the world lost the last of the Apollo 14 astronauts. Edgar Dean Mitchell, U.S. Navy test pilot and the sixth person to walk on the Moon, passed away in his sleep near his Florida home at the age of 85. Though it was his only flight into space, Apollo 14 provided the rather insightful Mitchell with an opportunity to test the bounds of the human mind in ways sometimes only he knew of at the time. Characterized later as the “Overview Effect,” he described the space travel experience as one that shifted his own beliefs about human existence, though having an openness to such a change was always a part of Mitchell’s way of life.

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Apollo 14 Crew Examine Lunar Samples
Fri, November 27 2015

Comparing Alan Eustace’s Spacesuit with Neil Armstrong’s

Our conservation team had the pleasure of hosting Alan Eustace, former Google executive, engineer, and stratospheric explorer, this month in the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory. Eustace and his StratEx team are well known for their three world records including one for the highest altitude jump at 41,422 meters (135,899 feet) in 2014. The adventurer was in town giving a lecture about his historic jump and to donate to the Museum the suit, life support, and balloon equipment module he used during the jump.

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Alan Eustace Visits the Conservation Labratory
Thu, November 12 2015

Transcribing Apollo Stowage Lists With Help from Volunteers

Apollo artifacts have begun to receive increased scrutiny in light of recent discussions about returning humans to the Moon and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo missions. What did astronauts of the 1960s and 1970s bring back from the Moon? What was left behind? And how can we verify the authenticity of any of those objects if they have been or will be recovered?

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Diagram from Apollo Handbook

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