Today we’re talking about a really cool project that brought together one former-Mythbuster, a couple of Smithsonian units, and makers across the country to reimagine an incredible piece of Apollo engineering.
In his memoir Moon Lander, Grumman project manager Thomas Kelly describes the exhilaration at Grumman for winning the contract to build what became the Lunar Module (LM), followed by trepidation when the design team realized the severe weight restraints they had to work under in order to get two astronauts safely to the lunar surface and back to lunar orbit. At the outset, Grumman and NASA worked with an initial estimate of 30,200 pounds, which was within the limits of the Saturn V’s booster capability; but this began to grow ominously as the work progressed.
At the National Air and Space Museum, as elsewhere around the world, we were enormously saddened when we learned that Neil Alden Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, had died of complications associated with heart surgery in August 2012. Not long afterwards his family contacted the Museum about artifacts he left in his home office in Ohio. In November, Museum curators Margaret Weitekamp (social and cultural history of space exploration), Alex Spencer (personal aeronautical equipment), and I (as Apollo curator) traveled to Cincinnati and were warmly greeted by his widow, Carol.
It was particularly timely that during the hustle and bustle of the 2014 holidays, I, along with curators Jennifer Levasseur and Cathleen Lewis, had a very special package to open for the very first time.
There is a common saying that the hands are where the mind meets the world. In space there is no direct contact between the mind and the world. This transaction is mediated by the artificial structures called gloves.
On November 19, 1969, 45 years ago and three short months after the landing of Apollo 11, Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean landed their lunar module “Intrepid” on the Ocean of Storms, just walking distance from the Surveyor III spacecraft. Their near pinpoint landing showed that Moon landings could continue, and with such accuracy that specific objects could be targeted for research.
Museum staff recently transported Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit to the National Museum of Natural History for a CT scan. Curator Cathleen Lewis shares her experience as one of those staff members and explains how CT scanning can help in preservation efforts.
There is no question that the success of Project Apollo in the 1960s helped to create a culture of competence for NASA that translated into a level of confidence in American capability, and especially in the ability of government to perform effectively, to resolve any problem. Something that almost sounds unthinkable in the early twenty-first century but such was indeed the case in the 1960s.
The second Apollo mission to carry astronauts into space provided NASA and the world with an unprecedented view of life on Earth. From the start, with its planned mission to fly three astronauts around the Moon and back, Apollo 8 became a touchstone for how people understood the process of spaceflight.
Widely known as a test pilot extraordinaire, C. Gordon Fullerton fulfilled three distinguished careers centered on aeronautics and spaceflight. He spent 30 years in the U.S. Air Force (1958–1988), retiring with the rank of colonel after serving as a bomber pilot, fighter pilot, and test pilot. During 20 of those years, he was an astronaut in the Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs (1966–1986). Then, for more than 20 years, he was a flight research pilot and chief pilot at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (1986–2007).