Thursday, October 20, 2022

Moonshot Space Museum Opens in Pittsburgh


Observation windows looking into the Astrobotic Clean Room, from the new Moonshot Space Museum, located on Pittsburgh's Lower North Side. In this photograph, two Astrobotic engineers are working on the Peregrine Moon Lander, scheduled to go to the Moon early in 2023.

More photographs of the Moonshot Space Museum, and the Museum's Dedication Ceremony, at the following Internet Link >>>

(Image Source: Friends of the Zeiss; Photographer: Glenn A. Walsh)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Pennsylvania's first space exploration museum, and the first museum to concentrate on “career readiness for the contemporary space industry” according to the museum publicity, opened in Pittsburgh on Saturday, 2022 October 15. Pittsburgh's Space Museum, the Moonshot Museum, was developed by Astrobotic Technology, which is building robotic space probes for missions on Earth's Moon.

The Moonshot Space Museum, which is located within the same building as the Astrobotic headquarters and manufacturing facility, includes large windows for public viewing of the construction of Moon-bound spacecraft, being built inside a Clean Room.

By necessity, the museum is smaller than most museums, about 3,000 square feet in size. This is approximately the size of the Bowdish Gallery, in Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science / Buhl Science Center, which many will remember as the former home of the very popular Miniature Railroad and Village.

However, the small size of the museum's gallery belies the great educational experience that can be found in the Moonshot Space Museum. About a dozen educational exhibits, along with four tables for children's activities, can be found in this gallery.

The museum's first day was well attended, and the public was delighted to learn that everyone visiting the first day received free admission. Additionally, each person attending the museum's Dedication Ceremony received a commemorative patch with a drawing of a lunar lander on the Moon, with the Earth and stars shown in the background, and the patch says: “MOONSHOT MUSEUM, FIND YOUR PLACE IN SPACE”.

Normal admission charges are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 3 to 17, and children under the age of 3 are free-of-charge. Although the museum opened at 9:00 for the first day, normal visiting hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Prevailing Time, Wednesday through Sunday; the museum is closed Monday and Tuesday.

The Moonshot Space Museum is located at 1016 North Lincoln Avenue, one block from Allegheny Avenue, in the Manchester section of Pittsburgh's Lower North Side. Although the site has limited parking, public parking is available, along with a Pittsburgh Regional Transit (a.k.a. Port Authority of Allegheny County Transit) Light Rail Rapid Transit Station (served by the "T" Red, Blue, and Silver Line trains) at the corner of Allegheny Avenue and Reedsdale Street, three blocks from the museum; less than a block from the Allegheny Light Rail Station, in the opposite direction towards the Ohio River, is The Carnegie Science Center.

Astrobotic created the Moonshot Space Museum as an independent, non-profit organization. The initial $2.7 million capital campaign, for the museum, has been completed, with funding coming from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Henry L. Hillman Foundation, Allegheny Foundation, Burke Foundation, Howmet Aerospace Foundation, and Buhl Foundation, among several others.

Each public visit begins with a ten-minute video, in a mini-theater, regarding the future of space exploration and the burgeoning commercial space industry. Upon leaving the mini-theater, visitors can immediately see the construction of Astrobotic spacecraft in a Clean Room, through large observation windows. Currently, Astrobotic engineers and technicians can be seen working on the Peregrine Moon Lander, which is set to go to space next year. To maintain an ultra-clean environment in the Clean Room, the engineers and technicians must be clad in white lab coats, hair-nets, blue gloves, and blue booties. Additionally, they must wear a special band on their wrist, which can be grounded, to eliminate static electric sparks.

A nearby exhibit shows a 1:30 model replica of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Centaur Rocket, which will launch Astrobotic's Peregrine Moon Lander into Outer Space early in 2023. This will be the first American spacecraft to land on the Moon in 50 years, since the Apollo 17 landing in December of 1972. Although no people will be with the Peregrine Moon Lander, 24 payloads will be carried including scientific equipment from NASA, other national space agencies, and Carnegie Mellon University.

Another nearby exhibit shows the CubeRover, a new Moon rover which Astrobotic describes as a cost-effective way for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals to send payloads to the Moon.

Large interactive maps of the Moon, one map showing the near-side hemisphere of the Moon and the other map showing the far-side, highlight lunar landing missions. Special note is given that the far-side of the Moon is NOT the dark-side of the Moon, as made famous in the Pink Floyd rock-and-roll band's hit song; both lunar hemispheres experience nightfall for about half a month, each month.

Another exhibit, called “Space Debates”, allows members of the public to consider a broad range of legal and social issues that will be encountered as humans further explore and commercialize Outer Space. The issues considered come under four categories: Governance and Law, Science and Technology, Environment and Nature, and Health and Medicine.

“Hydration Station” describes the importance of finding water (H2O) on the Moon and beyond, for future space travelers – for producing drinking water, rocket fuel, and breathable oxygen (O). This exhibit includes the museum's public drinking fountains!

“Hope Moonshot” allows visitors to write messages of hope for the future and submit them for archiving on the Moon. Each message will be transcribed to a memory-card and sent with one of the Astrobotic missions going to the Moon.

Other exhibits talk about mapping the Moon, exploring the lunar surface, and possible future lunar habitats. One exhibit describes some historic astronomers and space explorers, including Pittsburgh's Phoebe and John Brashear. John Brashear created a world-renowned company that produced telescopes and other precision scientific instruments; he also fund-raised for, and helped develop, the new Allegheny Observatory in the North Side's Riverview Park.

Additional scientists and space explorers are highlighted with special citations on the front of the museum's admissions and gift counter. This includes Emsworth, Pennsylvania-native Mike Fincke, a NASA Space Shuttle Astronaut who logged over a year in Outer Space, conducted 9 space-walks, and commanded the International Space Station (ISS); he cites the original Buhl Planetarium as inspiration for becoming an astronaut. Mount Washington's Jack Kinzler, known as NASA's “Mr. Fix-It”, is credited with creating an extending rod at the top of the flag poles mounted on the lunar surface, so the American flag appears to be flying, although there is no air or wind on the Moon.

Although Astrobotic, Moonshot Space Museum's parent, is not shy about displaying their space hardware and space exploration mission plans in this museum, they are really more interested in future staff for their space endeavors. They want the museum to inspire young people to consider possible careers with Astrobotic or other careers in the space industry. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education for young people is a major thrust for the Moonshot Space Museum.

The Moonshot Space Museum was created by Astrobotic Technology, a spin-off company from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Founded in 2007 by famed CMU robotics professor Red Whittaker, the privately-held company is now lead by President John Thornton. Astrobotic concentrates on robotics missions to the Moon, and eventually other planetary missions. In addition to the Peregrine Moon Lander mission scheduled for early next year, Astrobotic has a contract with NASA to carry the NASA VIPER Rover, which will look for water ice in the permanently-shadowed areas of craters near the Moon's South Pole; this mission is scheduled for November of 2024..

The Dedication Ceremony, held outside the entrance to the Moonshot Space Museum and Astrobotic Technology (their entrances are co-located), was hosted by Moonshot Space Museum Executive Director Sam Moore. Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald and City of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey addressed the on-lookers.

The Keynote Address was delivered by Dr. Lori Glaze, Director of the Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She spent several minutes explaining how curiosity is important for discovery and her hope that this new museum will spur curiosity in visitors. She said she hopes that visitors to the museum, particularly young people, will ponder how they can fit into the new space exploration profession.

A cheer-leading unit of young people, from the North Side's Manchester neighborhood where the Moonshot Space Museum is located, provided cheers for the opening of the museum.

Instead of a ribbon-cutting, the Moonshot Space Museum was launched by a science experiment performed by students from the North Side's Perry High School. The result of the science experiment was colored foam being launched several feet in the air, from four large science beakers.

Several tables, under a tent, were staffed by local non-profit organizations supporting the opening of the Moonshot Space Museum. These organizations included Assemble, A Community Space for Arts and Technology from Penn Avenue in Garfield, The Carnegie Science Center from just a few blocks down the hill, and theatrical group Attack Theatre from 45th Street in Lawrenceville. There was also a table with children's activities.

Some non-profit organizations provided volunteers to assist with the Moonshot Space Museum's first day, including the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh and The Carnegie Science Center.

Curiously, Pittsburgh seems to have a habit of the public opening of science museums on a day ending in the number “5” in the month of October! The Moonshot Space Museum opened to the public on 2022 October 15.

The grand public opening of the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science occurred on 1939 October 25. The official dedication had occurred at 8:30 p.m. the previous evening, before an invitation-only list of VIPs. However, the dedication was broadcast on three Pittsburgh radio stations: KQV, KDKA, and WWSW.

The Carnegie Science Center officially opened to the public on 1991 October 5. The retired U.S. Navy submarine, USS Requin, docked in the Ohio River next to the new science center building, had been available for public tours since September of 1990, operated by the Buhl Science Center (a.k.a. The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science) until the new science center opened.

Even The Carnegie Museum of Natural History opened on a day ending in “5”, but 5 days after October had ended. The Carnegie Institute, which includes The Carnegie Museum of Natural History and The Carnegie Library, as well as The Carnegie Music Hall and The Carnegie Museum of Art, opened to the public on 1895 November 5. Andrew Carnegie, a proud native of Scotland, chose November 5 to open some of his early libraries [including libraries in Homestead, Pennsylvania (1898) and Canton, Ohio (1905), in addition to Pittsburgh]. In Scotland, November 5 is known as Guy Fawkes Day, commemorating the failed plot (Gunpowder Plot of 1605) to blow-up the British Parliament and assassinate James Charles Stuart, who was Scotland's King James IV and King James I of England and Ireland (after the 1603 union of the English and Scottish Crowns).



Commemorative patch given to each person who attended the Dedication Ceremony of the Moonshot Space Museum.

More photographs of the Moonshot Space Museum, and the Museum's Dedication Ceremony, at the following Internet Link >>>

(Image Source: Friends of the Zeiss; Photographer: Glenn A. Walsh)

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

ADDENDUM: Photographs of the Moonshot Space Museum and the Museum's Dedication Ceremony:

Link >>>

Moonshot Space Museum: Link >>>

Astrobotic Technology -

Link 1 >>>

Link 2 >>>

History of The Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science / Buhl Science Center:

Link >>>

Astronomer & Telescope Maker John Brashear: Link >>>

NASA Astronaut Mike Fincke: Link >>>

History of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: Link >>>

Related Blog-Posts ---

"Science Museums Rebound After Worst of Pandemic." Tue., 2022 Sept. 27.

Association of Science & Technology Centers (ASTC) 2022 Conference in Pittsburgh

Link >>>

"Pittsburgh Museum Displays Historic Apollo 11 Moon Mission Artifacts." Wed., 2018 Oct. 24.

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

               Thursday, 2022 October 20.

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Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator                                                               (For more than 50 years! - Since Monday Morning, 1972 June 12):
Link >>>
Electronic Mail: < >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>>
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>>
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.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>>
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>>
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>>

* Other Walsh-Authored Blog & Web-Sites: Link >>>

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