Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Pittsburgh Museum Displays Historic Apollo 11 Moon Mission Artifacts

Replica of the Apollo 11 Columbia Command Module capsule which took astronauts to the Moon for the first time in 1969, part of the "Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission" exhibit at Pittsburgh's Senator John Heinz History Center. Children of all ages can go into this replica to experience how small the capsule really is. The actual Columbia Command Module capsule (which cannot be entered by visitors) is on display elsewhere in the exhibit. (Photograph by Christopher Sprowls)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Artifacts from the historic space mission of Apollo 11, which took two American astronauts to the surface of the Moon for the first time in 1969, are now on display at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. This temporary exhibit, titled “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission,” which features more than a hundred artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, will be on display at the Pittsburgh museum through Monday, 2019 February 18.

On 1961 May 25 before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, U.S. President John F. Kennedy set a goal, for the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." After a decade-long “Space Race” with Russia, which included the loss of three astronauts in a space capsule fire during a test before the launch of Apollo 1 in 1967, this goal was achieved when Neil Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface on Sunday Evening, 1969 July 20 at 10:56:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / Monday (“Moonday”), July 21, 3:56:20 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Known as the “nation's attic,” the Smithsonian Institution acquired and displayed many artifacts from our nation's Space Program in the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Downtown Washington DC. At the present time, the National Air and Space Museum is undergoing a rehabilitation which includes a new “Destination Moon” permanent gallery expected to open in 2022. However, the National Air and Space Museum is still in preparation for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first landing of humans on the Moon next year.

During the rehabilitation, the Smithsonian is providing some Apollo 11 artifacts for a traveling exhibit, which is visiting museums in four American cities during a two-year (2017 to 2019) national tour (the first national tour since 1970 to 1971). The Senator John Heinz History Center (an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution) is the third of the four museums being visited, and the only museum to be visited in the eastern part of the United States. Previously, the exhibit was displayed at Space Center Houston and at the Saint Louis Science Center. After the Pittsburgh run, this exhibition will be displayed at The Museum of Flight in Seattle (2019 April 13 to September 2).

Sometimes Andrew Masich, Senator John Heinz History Center President and Chief Executive Officer, can be found explaining parts of the exhibit to visitors. On the day this writer visited the exhibit, Mr. Masich was in the exhibit hall telling some visitors the story of how Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin had to use his felt-tipped pen to launch the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) from the Moon to meet the Command Module in Lunar orbit, for the return trip to Earth. The circuit-breaker switch, which should have been used to launch the LEM, had earlier broken-off from the control panel after Mr. Aldrin had inadvertently bumped the switch and knocked it on the floor, when he turned-around in the very tight quarters of the LEM.

Historic Apollo 11 artifacts included in “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission,” at the Senator John Heinz History Center include ---

  • Actual Apollo 11 Columbia Command Module capsule
  • Apollo 11 Columbia Command Module capsule replica, which people can enter
  • Actual Apollo 11 Columbia Command Module Hatch
  • Star Chart used by Apollo 11 astronauts
  • Apollo 11 Survival Kit
  • Apollo 11 Lunar Sample Return Container
  • Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's Space Helmet and Gloves
  • Apollo 11 Operations Checklist
  • Apollo 11 Mechanical Pencil
  • Apollo 11 Felt-tipped Pen with small velcro tab to keep attached to space suit
  • Apollo 11 Command Module Medical Kit & Accessories
  • Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins' Chronograph / Watch
  • Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins' Pilot Flight Plan
  • Samples of Apollo 11 Capsule Heat Shield
  • Apollo 11 Press Kit for media covering space mission
  • Apollo 11 Launch Press Pass for Pittsburgh-native and future Space Shuttle Astronaut Jay Apt
  • Model of U.S. Flag left on the Moon
  • Model / prototype of Historic Plaque (with signature of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon) left on the Moon, on ladder of Lunar Excursion Module
  • Model of Saturn V Rocket, built by Pittsburgh-based North American Rockwell Corporation
  • Model of television camera used on the Moon by Apollo 11 astronauts, developed by Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Company (for many years, another model of this Westinghouse television camera was displayed at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science / Buhl Science Center)

    Other NASA and space-related artifacts include ---

    • Moon Rock – Lunar Sample 150 58 188 (024) collected by Apollo 15 Astronaut & Pittsburgh-native James Irwin at Station 8 adjacent to the Lunar Excursion Module landing site. Sample weighs109 grams; fragment of 2,672-gram original Mare Basalt rock – 3.3 billion years-old; older than 98 per-cent of Earth rocks. [The last time a Moon Rock was publicly displayed in Pittsburgh was in the Summer of 1989 (20th anniversary of Apollo 11) at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science / Buhl Science Center.]
    • Pittsburgh company Mine Safety Appliances Comfo-Brand Respirator used by astronauts during Earth quarantine period
    • 1972 prototype Lunar Drill produced by Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Company
    • Prototype Lunar-X Prize Rover by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, Inc. (Carnegie Mellon University spin-off); actual rover expected to land on the Moon in the 2020s
    • Section of exhibition commemorates eight NASA astronauts from the Pittsburgh region

    The Senator John Heinz History Center (named for the late U.S. Senator H. John Heinz III, who died in a mid-air collision near Philadelphia in 1991) is open each day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (closed on New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). The largest history museum in Pennsylvania is located at the northeastern end of Downtown Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle, in the Strip District at the corner of Smallman Street and 13th Street. About a mile away, across the Allegheny River on the Lower North Side, is the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. Today (October 24) marks the 79th anniversary of the dedication of Buhl Planetarium.

    Internet Links to Additional Information ---

    "Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission" ---
    Link 1 >>>
    Link 2 >>>

    Photograph of the Apollo 11 Columbia Command Module, as part of this history exhibit:
    Link >>>

    Apollo 15 Astronaut & Pittsburgh Native James Irwin (8th man to walk on the Moon):
    Link >>>

    Space Shuttle Astronaut & Pittsburgh Native Jay Apt (who used a Cape Kennedy Press Pass to view the launch of Apollo 11): Link >>>

    Former U.S. President John Quincy Adams, who helped establish Smithsonian Institution:
    Link >>>

    Samuel Pierpont Langley, 3rd Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and 1st University Director of Pittsburgh's Allegheny Observatory:
    Photograph - Link >>>
    Biography - Link >>>

    Related Blog Posts ---

    "170th Anniversary: Smithsonian Institution." 2016 Aug. 10.

    Link >>>


    "Apollo 11 TV Camera Developer Dies at 91." 2015 Feb. 23.

    Link >>>

    "45 Years Ago: Man Lands on the Moon !" 2014 July 20.

    Link >>>

    "JFK: Loss of the Man Who Sent Us to the Moon." 2013 Nov. 22.

    Link >>>

    "Moon Day - A National Holiday ?" 2013 July 20.

    Link >>>


    Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
                  Wednesday, 2018 October 24.

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    Glenn A. Walsh --- < >
    Electronic Mail: < >
    Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < >
    SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < >
    Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
    Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
    * Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
      < >
    * Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
      < >
    * Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
      < >
    * Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
      < >


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