"Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission Exhibition" is ending September 2, 2019 at The Museum of Flight (in Tukwila, WA just south of Seattle).
The moon is our faraway friend on Earth. We love it as it waxes and wanes, eclipses and glows; and, as we gaze upwards we have anthropomorphized it, assigning full moons names such as Harvest, Snow, Wolf, or Sturgeon.
So that must be why objects in the Moon exhibit seem so ethereal: some of the objects have touched the moon and returned to tell the tale: well, maybe not out loud in actual language, but in the other-world mystery we ascribe to them.
Want a bite before or after? There are two cafes: Wings and Pavilion. Wings does not require museum admission, according to the website. (While I did not get a chance to eat in Wings, myself, I was told that there are several salads with gluten free ingredients (there is no GIG certification).
In fact, either Wings or Pavilion could be great meeting places for those in Tukwila, Burien, or South King County.
I toured the exhibit recently and spoke about it with Ted Huetter, Senior Public Relations Manager.
It was quite a coup for the Museum of Flight to land the exhibit 50 years after the United States’ July 24, 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, says Huetter. "This is the exhibit that every institution like ours wanted to have on the 50th anniversary.“
Items such as the NASA Apollo 11 command module, Columbia, the Columbia hatch, and Buzz Aldrin’s (Extravehicular) gloves are on loan from the Smithsonian. When the items return to the Smithsonian, says Huetter, they will be behind a piece of acrylic — so “you’re never going to see it like this again,” It’s the public’s chance to see the command module “up close and personal,” he said.
The Columbia module is 10 feet seven inches tall, and 12 feet, 10 inches in diameter. It weighed 1170 pounds at splashdown and was made of aluminum alloy, stainless steel, and titanium. There is something nether-worldly about the surface of the module, which is covered with varying rust-colored hues like an encaustic wax painting. The effect — almost artistic — was caused in part by salt water deposits, corrosion, and scorch marks (from re-entry) Huetter said.
It reminded me of the horizontal brick-like lines you would see on a Mayan megalith.
Huetter explained that the original module was covered in a taped-on material that was “reflecting, shimmering, almost foil-like” - with most of it coming off on re-entry. During the first conservation effort on the module, Huetter said, the rest of this shiny module covering was removed.
When I toured the exhibit, two young men who described themselves to me as “space nerds” were engaging animatedly with the very knowledgeable docent. “They have the module! They have the (Buzz Aldin’s) gloves!” one exclaimed.
But even less technologically complex items were impressive in their sheer simplicity and elegance. For instance, a shiny “rock box” — a little bigger than a bread box — was one of two boxes used to bring back 47.7 pounds (21.8 kilograms) of rocks (“lunar material”) from the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility.
Another fascinating tidbit? Material brought back from the ocean floor by Jeff Bezos Expeditions’ search for and recovery of the Apollo F-1 engines.
In a YouTube video about the Bezos mission, Bezos said from the Expeditions ship: “Three miles below where I’m standing now is a wonderland that is testament to the Apollo program. It looks like a magic sculpture garden with all of these pieces from different missions that are in some cases perfectly preserved and in other cases twisted into these beautiful shapes.”
Artifacts from different missions (Apollo 11, 12, and 16, says Huetter) were mixed up on the ocean floor, and 43 years of erosion had obscured most all serial numbers. But, using a black light and a special lens filter, one of the conservators at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas was able to identify one serial number — from a thrust chamber — belonging to F-1 Engine #5 from Apollo 11.
The Bezos Expedition brought back “chambers, gas generators, injectors, heat exchangers, turbines, fuel manifolds and dozens of other artifacts,” according to Bezosexpeditions.com.
“All the big (artifacts) are on display,” said Huetter. How much did it cost to bring up these chunks of history? We don’t know, he says.
Of course, the exhibit doesn’t just “launch” (pun intended) one into a room full of rockets and modules and hatch doors without an introduction to the excitement of the space race and the initial landing. The exhibit includes several dozen artifacts from the Museum of Flight collection, such as an SK-1 Vostok Space Suit (1960) — the type of space suit first worn into space by Soviet cosmonauts.
In another part of the exhibit, one peers into a typical 60’s family living room — where the moon landing would have been viewed before the advent of sports bars and big-screen t.v.’s. The authentically-designed living room came complete with stacks of books that included “Harriet the Spy.”
Go see the exhibit by September 2nd, and enjoy the rest of the large museum as well. You will love the panoramic entrance that brings to mind all the hope and big ideas of space exploration.