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Apollo Program

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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
Wed, October 14 2015

Apollo Guidance Computer and the First Silicon Chips

As the Apollo program took form in the early 1960s, NASA engineers always kept the safety of their astronauts at the fore in light of the enormous risks they knew were inherent in the goal of landing on the Moon and returning safely. Wherever possible, they designed backup systems so that if a primary system failed the crew would still have the means to return home safely. Sometimes creating a backup was not always practical. For example, the Service Module’s engine needed to fire while the crew was behind the Moon to place them in a trajectory that would return them to Earth. There was no practical backup if the engine failed. But even in that instance a plan was worked out to use the Lunar Module’s (LM) engine as a backup. D

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Inside of a Silicon Chip
Mon, August 31 2015

Duct Tape Auto Repair on the Moon

When most people think of emergency fixes in space, the first incident that comes to mind is the famous Apollo 13 mission. The astronauts fashioned duct tape and surplus materials into air filtration canisters in the lunar module to keep all three astronauts alive for the entire trip home.

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Apollo 17 LRV
Thu, August 27 2015

Gene Kranz’s Apollo 13 Vest

Gene Kranz is best known for his stellar performance as flight director for the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. But Kranz is also known for another thing: his white vests. Kranz’s vests had legendary status around mission control, and also in the minds of the public after actor Ed Harris wore an exact replica of Kranz’s most famous vest in the 1995 movie, Apollo 13. Kranz’s vests represented the strong and can-do approach that pervaded his mission control team, especially during the Apollo 13 mission in which the astronauts’ lives were at stake.

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Gene Kranz
Wed, August 12 2015

What does Alan Shepard’s Mercury suit have to do with Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 suit?

We’ve received a few comments and questions about why our stretch goal for the Neil Armstrong #RebootTheSuit Kickstarter project is Alan Shepard’s Mercury Freedom 7 spacesuit. The short answer is that the two suits bracket the ideas and accomplishments of the Apollo space program.

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What does Alan Shepard’s Mercury suit have to do with Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 suit?

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