‘Destination Moon’ touches down at Heinz History Center
As the scratchy voice of mission control repeated those famous words, “Three … two … one … we have liftoff, we have liftoff,” the Apollo 11’s Saturn V rocket propelled the command module into space on July 16, 1969.
“I don’t know about you, but every time I see that, every time I hear that, I get goosebumps and a feeling of pride,” Heinz History Center Andy Masich said after watching a video montage to introduce the museum’s upcoming exhibit featuring the Columbia command module that carried man to the moon.
“Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission” opens to the public Saturday at Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman St. in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.
The museum is one of four nationwide to host the exhibit with the spacecraft, transported from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The artifact left the nation’s capital for the first time since a tour to all 50 states in 1970-71, including a stop in Harrisburg.
“‘Destination Moon’ is a fitting celebration of the astronauts and the hundreds of thousands of Americans of all ages, races and genders who built the hardware and supported the historic flight,” said Mike Neufeld, senior curator of space history at the Air and Space Museum. “We hope it will not only inform, but also inspire future explorers, scientists and engineers to pursue new, world-changing endeavors.”
The exhibit also features more than 100 artifacts, including many used by Apollo 11 crew members Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins.
“This milestone that happened 50 years ago is not just a great moment in American history, but it’s one of those milestones in human history,” Masich said.
A star chart used during the journey, Aldrin’s helmet and gloves and the hatch from the spacecraft will be among the items on display. The history center also has incorporated Pittsburgh’s contributions to the moon mission from companies including Westinghouse, North American Rockwell and Wabtec’s Union Switch & Signal.
“Pittsburgh has been steeped in the history of our nation from its earliest evolution,” said Scott M. Lammie, senior vice president of business development at UPMC Health Plan. Locally, UPMC is sponsoring the exhibit.
Inside, across from flight suits and personal effects used by the eight astronauts throughout history who grew up in Pittsburgh, the Peregrine lander built by Strip District-based Astrobotic sits as a reminder of the region’s connection to the future of space exploration.
“We hope to be leading America back to the moon from right here in Pittsburgh,” said CEO John Thornton.
The company plans to send it to the moon in 2020, and wants to make the moon accessible to the world, he said.
“I do hope that we can spark once again the Apollo feeling and build up excitement again,” he said.
Interactive stations featuring a lunar lander video game, a place to share personal memories of the space race and a virtual 3-D tour of Columbia’s interior also are a part of “Destination Moon,” which will be on display through Feb. 18, 2019.
The family-friendly exhibit will be enhanced by several events during its time in Pittsburgh, beginning with an air-rocket launch with the South Hills Area Rocketry Klub at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
A week of space-themed movies is planned through a partnership with Row House Cinema in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, and a “launch party” is scheduled for Oct. 11.
Special programs for different age groups of children will also take place as well as guided tours by museum staff for people of all ages.
On Nov. 1, the museum will host James R. Hansen, author of “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong.” Hansen served as a consultant on the soon-to-be-released Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling.
The Heinz History Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and the “Destination Moon” exhibit is included in regular admission, which is $18 for adults, $15 for senior citizens over 62 and $9 for children 6 to 17.
Stacey Federoff is a freelance writer.