Space

Apollo 11 command module readies for road trip

Apollo 11 command module readi...
The Apollo 11 command module Columbia, shown here on a temporary cradle, which is set for a tour of the US
The Apollo 11 command module Columbia, shown here on a temporary cradle, which is set for a tour of the US
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Astronaut Michael Collins wore an Omega Speedmaster Chronograph during the Apollo 11 mission
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Astronaut Michael Collins wore an Omega Speedmaster Chronograph during the Apollo 11 mission
Hatch of Columbia
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Hatch of Columbia
Gloves worn by Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11
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Gloves worn by Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11
Visor assembly worn by Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
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Visor assembly worn by Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins pose in front of the Columbia at the National Air and Space Museum in 1979
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Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins pose in front of the Columbia at the National Air and Space Museum in 1979
The interior of the Apollo 11 command module
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The interior of the Apollo 11 command module
Chart showing the positions of the Sun, Moon, and stars at the time Apollo 11 was scheduled to leave Earth orbit
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Chart showing the positions of the Sun, Moon, and stars at the time Apollo 11 was scheduled to leave Earth orbit
One of two rucksacks filled with equipment to help the crew survive for up to 48 hours in the event of an emergency landing on Earth
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One of two rucksacks filled with equipment to help the crew survive for up to 48 hours in the event of an emergency landing on Earth
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
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Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
The Apollo 11 command module Columbia, shown here on a temporary cradle, which is set for a tour of the US
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The Apollo 11 command module Columbia, shown here on a temporary cradle, which is set for a tour of the US

This year, one of the most important artifacts of the Space Age, the Columbia command module of the Apollo 11 mission, will leave its home at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum for the first time in almost 50 years. The historic spacecraft will be the centerpiece of an exhibition traveling to top museums across the US that will tell the story of the Space Race and the conquest of the Moon.

Launching on July 16, 1969, Columbia took Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon, where Aldrin and Armstrong became the first men in history to set foot on our nearest neighbor. Out of the entire skyscraper-sized Saturn V spacecraft that propelled the explorers into space, only the command module, which returned the astronauts to Earth, remains intact. All the other components were either destroyed after lift off, left or crashed on the Moon, or burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.

During the mission, the command module acted as command center, crew quarters, and re-entry vehicle. Now, it's a monument to one of the greatest events since events started being recorded. In 1970 and '71, Columbia toured all 50 states and visited 49 state capitals, drawing huge crowds that waited hours to pass through the trailer. It then returned to the Smithsonian and its National Air and Space Museum, where it has remained on display for 46 years.

The upcoming two-year cross-country tour, called "Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission," will include not only Columbia, but over 20 items that will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing and tell the story of the people behind the eight-year effort dedicated to, in the words of President John F Kennedy in 1961, "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

The interior of the Apollo 11 command module
The interior of the Apollo 11 command module

Unlike the original tour, where the public could only see the outside the capsule and, if they were tall enough (as I found out as a boy) a glimpse of the inside through the hatch, Destination Moon will include an interactive 3D tour of Columbia from high-resolution scans made of the interior in 2016.

The Smithsonian says that the two-year traveling exhibition will act as a preview of a new gallery at the National Air and Space Museum that is scheduled to open in 2021 and will cover the history of human fascination with the Moon, from ancient beliefs, through the Apollo program, to the missions of today.

The Destination Moon exhibition will visit the Space Center Houston from October 14, 2017 to March 18, 2018; the Saint Louis Science Center from April 14 to September 3, 2018; the Senator John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh from September 29, 2018 to February 18, 2019; and the Museum of Flight, Seattle from March 16 to Sept. 2, 2019.

Source: The Smithsonian Institution

2 comments
Ed Llorca
I wish there was a list of cities and dates.
Grunchy
I saw Apollo IX in San Diego last spring, man it was magnificent. I guess the story was that it had been left out in a parking lot at NASA before somebody thought to ask around if any museum wanted it... !!!!