The moment of humankind's first voyage to the Moon and back was captured in a series of photos taken by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observing Station in Maui, Hawaii. They show the trans-lunar injection rocket burn which sent Apollo 8 hurtling out of Earth orbit toward the Moon on December 21, 1968–perhaps the only such images that exist.
As we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the pioneering Apollo 8 mission, many commentators and news stories will assert that NASA sent Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders to the Moon to beat the Soviet Union. In fact, the Soviets were planning to send two cosmonauts to loop around the Moon, but that statement of the agency’s intent is, at best, half true.
As the Museum kicks off its massive project to reimagine Air and Space, many of the objects in our collection will be moved from their current location on the National Mall. The first objects on that list were also some of the most iconic in our collection: Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 and Gene Cernan’s Apollo 17 spacesuits.
After 32 years, the gallery will close on December 3 as the Museum embarks on a years-long project to revitalize our infrastructure and transform our exhibitions. What better time to take a look back at the early days of the exhibit and how it came together?