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AAA World Article

Out-of-This-World Museums

Explore the science and sensation behind humanity’s first steps on the moon.

By MeLinda Schnyder

AAA World Article

Buzz Aldrin
Photo Courtesy of NASA


Armstrong Air & Space Museum
Wapakoneta, Ohio

armstrongmuseum.org

Celebrate the late Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 mission commander and the first person to land a craft on the moon and to walk on the moon, at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in his hometown of Wapakoneta in western Ohio.

Armstrong Air & Space Museum
Armstrong Air & Space Museum
Photo Courtesy of National Aviation Heritage Area

The museum’s exterior resembles a moon base, and its interior explores the life of Armstrong as well as early and modern space exploration. Armstrong’s love of aviation is also well-represented, from a piece of a wind tunnel he created as a child, to the Aeronca Champion aircraft in which he learned to fly, to the Gemini 8 spacecraft he piloted in 1966.

Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong
Photo Courtesy of NASA

His training suit for Apollo 11 is displayed, too, along with a moon rock he brought back. Among the interactive exhibits and simulators, you can land a lunar module or dock the Gemini capsule.


 

 

Cosmosphere Internationsl SciEd Center and Space Museum
Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum
Photo Courtesy of Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum


Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum
Hutchinson, Kansas

cosmo.org

Known for having the largest collection of Russian spacecraft outside Moscow, the Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum in Hutchinson is home as well to three American-flown spacecraft: the 1961 Liberty Bell 7, the 1966 Gemini 10 and the 1970 Apollo 13.

Apollo Lunar Module Replica
A replica of the Apollo lunar module
Photo Courtesy of Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum

The Cosmosphere and its Hall of Space Museum displays some 650 artifacts. The Apollo gallery contains one-of-a-kind authentic and replica artifacts, including the white room where Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins made final preparations before entering the spacecraft as well as a console removed from the mission control room at Johnson Space Center, where a flight surgeon studied the astronauts’ medical conditions.

Cosmosphere Internationsl SciEd Center and Space Museum
Spacesuite of Apollo 13 commander James Lovell
Photo Courtesy of Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum

Also on display is a thrust chamber from Apollo 11’s Saturn V F-1 engine. It’s one of several engine components salvaged from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 2013.

 

 

Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center

Photo courtesy of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Merritt Island, Florida

kennedyspacecenter.com

Head to NASA’s primary launch center (less than an hour east of Orlando) to visit the site where a Saturn V rocket launched Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969, and walk beneath an authentic moon rocket, which is believed to be one of only three remaining in the U.S. The 363-foot-long rocket, the largest flown through space, is the centerpiece of the Apollo/Saturn V Center, one of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s mission zones, which take you through the U.S. Space Program in chronological order.

Apollo Saturn V Center
Saturn V Rocket and engine bells
Photo courtesy of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Along with Apollo 11 items, there are authentic artifacts from every Apollo mission—from spacesuits and a moon rock that you can touch to a lunar excursion module and the Apollo 14 crew capsule.

In the Lunar Theater, visitors can relive the drama of watching the launch and the moon landing, which blends NASA film footage and audio recordings with 3D theatrical elements and interviews with Apollo astronauts.

 

More Places to Celebrate the Moon Landing Anniversary

No matter what part of the country you’re in, you’ll likely find a museum honoring the Apollo 11 anniversary this year, including special events throughout the duration of the eight-day mission, from blastoff on July 16 to when astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins safely splashed back down on Earth on July 24. Here are a few others to consider.

Space Center Houston (spacecenter.org) is debuting the Historic Mission Operations Control Center, a national historic landmark, recently restored to its appearance when it managed the Apollo 11 mission. Using authentic audiovisuals, the exhibit creates an immersive experience of Apollo 11’s pivotal moments in the same space where they happened.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (airandspace.si.edu) on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is honoring the anniversary throughout the year with special events; however, the museum’s full Apollo exhibit is closed until a new permanent exhibit opens in 2022. You can check out a lunar module in the main hall and a special case of Apollo 11 artifacts, which will be joined in July by Armstrong’s spacesuit. The Smithsonian’s key Apollo artifacts are included in a traveling exhibit “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission” that is at The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, until September 2, 2019.

U.S. Space & Rocket Center (rocketcenter.com) in Huntsville, Alabama, the visitor center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, displays one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia. The special exhibit “Apollo: When We Went to the Moon” runs through December 2019.

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum (wingsmuseum.org) in Denver, Colorado, hosts a regional celebration of the anniversary called Apollopalooza from July 13 to 20.

 

 

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of AAA World.


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