The Museum periodically performs a thorough, physical check of all our objects. We open panels and cases and closely inspect each object for any sign of deterioration due to light, humidity, vibration, or just the march of time. We always hope there are no surprises. But when conservator Robin O’Hern, gallery inventory coordinator Erin Ober, and their colleagues opened a large chamber in the Apollo to the Moon gallery, they got a shock; an acrid chemical smell.
One of the joys of working with an archive is unearthing the unexpected. When an avowed space nerd like me gets the opportunity to spend time in archives as impressive as the Smithsonian, my journey down research road was a bit circuitous. More often than not, I was lured away from my original focus by fascinating finds. Here are a few of my favorites.
Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was the first and last geologist to visit the Moon. Below is his secret chili recipe, served best with a side of tortilla chips and some space history. We can’t help with the chips, but we can tell you a little about this chili-making astronaut.
Many are familiar with images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin standing beside the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle during the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing. The story of how the LM was developed and tested is a little less familiar. Here are six highlights from a recent talk.
Throughout the Apollo program, a range of artists were given unrestricted access to NASA’s various facilities in order to collect usable reference materials. Many of these artworks were donated to the Museum and form a valuable lens through which to examine the cultural impact of twentieth century spaceflight and aviation.
The last time Neil Armstrong's gloves and helmet were displayed, in 2012, visitors asked us about “grey spots” on the right glove. We're conducting research and examining historical documentation to find out why.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, and the U.S. Treasury turned to America’s newest space heroes to fundraise. In 1970, the Advertising Council began one of the Treasury’s longest running Savings Bond promotions, “Take stock in America.” One of the first posters produced for the promotion is a photographic assembly depicting the United States’ conquest of the Moon.
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?
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.
“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.