Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After spending 46 years parked at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, the Apollo 11 command module “Columbia” traveled again. This time, the journey was not quite as epic as to the moon and back, but the trip is still historic. The spacecraft is visiting Seattle, Houston, St. Louis and Pittsburgh in a new traveling exhibition, “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission.”
Columbia, which the museum has designated a “milestone of flight,” transported Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins to an orbit around the moon in 1969. Aldrin and Armstrong used a detachable landing craft, the lunar module Eagle, to descend to the surface, where on July 20, 1969, Armstrong took mankind’s first steps on the moon. Columbia transported the trio back to Earth, where the spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean four days later.
After the command module was hoisted on to the deck of an aircraft carrier and taken home to the United States, it made a nationwide tour that ended in 1971 when Columbia arrived at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Now it will travel to four different museums over the course of two years before the 50-year anniversary of the lunar landing.
Last year, museum staff entered Columbia for the first time in decades. A detailed 3D scan was made of the entire interior to use as part of a digital component of the traveling exhibition, which also includes 20 of the more than 400 objects that were removed from Columbia.