When a team accomplishes what, at times, seemed impossible, it becomes a victory for all—an entire city or country, or all humankind. We see this in milestones throughout aviation history, and we celebrate those shared victories throughout our Museum. And when a sports team brings a championship to a city that hasn’t seen one in 25 years, the whole city comes out to celebrate.
The last time the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia traveled the US was in 1970. Almost 50 years later, the historic spacecraft that helped take us to the Moon and back is headed out on the road for a nationwide tour. Following the tour, the Command Module will be placed on permanent display in the exhibition Destination Moon, scheduled to open in 2020 at the Museum in Washington, DC. The Museum’s conservation team will spend the next six months preparing the artifact for travel and display. Conservator Lisa Young shares what the next few months will look like and what she’s most interested in finding out about Columbia.
Following the Apollo 1 fire, James Webb, the administrator of NASA, asked President Johnson to conduct an investigation of the tragedy. Johnson agreed and an independent review board was convened. Among the six factors found to contribute to the Apollo 1 fire, one was the lack of a quickly removable hatch. Curator Allan Needell uses hatches from the Museum’s collection to illustrate the changes that were made to the hatch system following Apollo 1 to improve safety.
Captain Eugene Andrew Cernan died Monday, surrounded by his family in Houston, Texas. He was 82 years old. For more than half his life, he was known as the Last Man on the Moon, but he was also a devoted father and husband, a naval aviator and advocate, and a great friend to many. He remains a hero for the ages.
“Gene” Cernan will always be remembered as the “last man on the Moon”—at least until the next person walks there. As commander of Apollo 17, the final expedition of that program, he spent three days on the Moon with Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. Yet that is not all he accomplished in a storied astronaut career.
This week the Apollo 11 Command Module, Columbia, which carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on their historic trip to the Moon, moved to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. To many of us at the Museum, the move seemed to have miraculously happened overnight. In truth, the move took a team of experts and months of meticulous planning to pull off.
“This is something that’s unlike anything, at least for me, that I’ve ever moved,” said Anthony Wallace, a museum specialist in the Museum’s collections processing unit. Wallace explained that the spacecraft was not as complicated to move as some of the Museum’s aircraft, but the historical significance of the object heightened everyone’s awareness.
At the Museum we’re fortunate to host many of the nation’s aerospace icons. This was certainly the case earlier this year when Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins was on hand for our 2016 John H. Glenn Lecture, Spaceflight: Then, Now, Next.
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.