I have been looking forward to visiting the Museum of Flight this summer to see the "Destination Moon" exhibit. I like an anniversary more than most, and have realized that I kinda dig space, and our exploration of it. It makes sense -- I like nature *and* the built environment, so why not?
Last Saturday -- on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we sat outside in the garden and watched the grainy footage, including the footage aired by ABC television that night. (Seriously, if you haven't watched their little model land on the moon -- an "ABC SIMULATION" they used as filler when they didn't have pictures -- it's pretty great. Except when the "booster rockets" look as if they've started to set the "lander" on fire...) Oh, and we ate "MOON ROCKS" chocolate and "Marshmallow Moon" Oreos, of course...
Seriously, how cute are these Oreos?
But of course, the stars of the show were Neil and Buzz, ON THE MOON.
So this Saturday we went to the Museum of Flight -- a great museum at any time, but currently home to... THE COMMAND MODULE!
We were surprised, when we visited the DC back in the spring, how much of the Air and Space Museum was closed... and we kept thinking -- BUT THE MOON LANDING ANNIVERSARY!
I'm imagining discussions five years ago in the Smithsonian headquarters.
"Okay, we need to completely renovate the Air and Space Museum... we've got funding, so let's get it planned out. How about from 2018 - 2025?"
A tiny voice will speak up, "But... but... we can't close the 'Apollo to the Moon' gallery! The 50th anniversary is approaching!!!"
Much grumbling will ensue... then "Well, we can keep our model of the lunar lander.... let's just send the command module to storage?"
"YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY! IT'S BEEN TO SPACE!!!!"
"FINE. How about that museum in the wild west -- the one that didn't get one of the decommissioned Space Shuttles?"
"Yeah -- that's a good idea -- they'll take it!"
Well their (temporary) loss is our (temporary) gain... and the Destination Moon exhibit was really fun to visit. We got timed-entry tickets for 10:20a.m., arriving by bus at 10:15 and rushing in. The fact that we entered from the street side, rather than the parking lot side, worked in our favor -- we couldn't see any signage that said which way to go for people with pre-purchased tickets, so went to the information counter, where a Very Nice Lady said, "Oh, we'll just print them here for you." Her young coworker said, "But they're supposed to go to the line..." and I said, "Oh, we just couldn't tell where to go with our pre-purchased tickets..." and the Very Nice Lady said, "We're going to take care of them HERE" very firmly, and that was that.
We got our wristbands and tickets and went straight to the entrance for Destination Moon. There was a little "holding area" with a few pieces -- glassware and toys produced in honor of the Apollo 11 mission, for example -- and a very short line, and then we were in.
And then it was weirdly crowded... I supposed that the people who, like me, had purchased the first-time-slot tickets were VERY KEEN... and everyone was lined up, reading EVERYTHING. The first section was themed "Washington Goes to Space" and had displays on the Seattle World's Fair, a model of a lunar rover, and a pretty cool Gemini XI flight suit. But it was absolutely rammed and people weren't moving. So we decided to quickly move on to the next area.
The "The Space Race is On" area was a little less crowded, and I admired this beauty:
Sputnik I and II, launched 4 October and 3 November 1957, respectively.
Around the corner, in the "Gaining Experience" area, was a SK-1 Vostok Space Suit -- which was developed especially for Yuri Gagarin. Apparently SK stands for "Skafandr Kosmicheskly", literally "diving suit for space". I was so distracted by Public Service Broadcasting's "Gagarin" song looping around in my head, I failed to take a picture of the orange jumpsuit. So instead, I offer up this video from PSBHQ:
I continued on, admiring the handsome Mission Control console -- again, not enough to photograph it, apparently. It was at this point that I lost Wil temporarily, but moved on and browsed the sweet Neil Armstrong artifacts, including a lovely little photo of him strumming a ukulele in the quarantine facility after returning to earth:
And this display of the "Short-Fat Flight Suit" -- so named because the legs were too short and the waist was too big. I loved reading that, after retiring, Neil and his family liked to wear this as a coverall when they were working the family farm in Ohio.
I was admiring a mockup of a living room, circa 1969, and admiring some sweet glassware (seriously I have no need for more glassware, buuuut...):
when Wil came rushing up to me to say "THERE'S NO ONE AT THE COMMAND MODULE!!!"
So off we scurried and were indeed surprised to find no one looking at the command module. The Apollo 11 command module.
They had a looping video above of the command module coming back to earth and splash landing in the ocean.
Every time I see those red-and-white striped parachutes I think of this:
|yes, I know this is a Gemini capsule... and from 1966... but still|
Quality time spent with the command module, I went back and looked at the things I missed, including the big recovered chunks of the F-1 engines from Apollo 12 and 16. But I was more interested in the artifacts that had been flown on the Apollo 11 mission, including Buzz's visor and gloves:
and this amazing "survival backpack", one of two (with different inventories) carried on board in case the astronauts crash landed in an inhospitable place:
This backpack had sunglasses (so cool!), sunscreen, a water purifying kit, and a machete, among other items.
I also loved this pair of artifacts from Apollo 12 -- a photograph of a moon rock before being collected:
and the rock itself:
Some more obligatory hamming it up for the camera:
and then we made the usual lingering exit through the gift shop, where we somehow managed to avoid buying this jacket:
Obviously, had it been black or even a dark charcoal, we would have bought it... but if you want to buy it, it looks like it's also available from Red Canoe's own website.
We spent another couple of hours looking at the museum's collection of flying things, poked around the old Red Barn (love that they pump in woody smells and creaky machinery sounds!), and admired the WWI and WWII exhibits in the Personal Courage Wing -- where I saw my first Spitfire in person.
Then we headed back across the bridge, had a quick look on the Space Shuttle Fuselage Trainer (sigh), and then the aviation pavilion, where I again wished I had had a chance to fly Concord. (Side note: the woman behind us as we walked through the Concord was grousing that it all seemed "a little snug" and "doesn't seem very luxurious" ... MADAME, YOU COULD FLY FROM NEW YORK TO LONDON IN UNDER THREE HOURS. That's the luxury!!!!! Oh, and you could drink champagne...) We also walked through the big 747 and marveled at how massive they really are. Also, realizing that they entered commercial service in 1970 somehow means that 1969 to the moon seems less surprising, somehow...
Through our entire visit -- but especially in the Destination Moon exhibit -- I was both charmed and amazed by how knowledgable other visitors were. I mean, I feel like I get obsessive and really interested, but these people were REVERENT. It was lovely.