- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2019

NASA plans to go to the moon in 2024, but the National Air and Space Museum aims to return there a bit earlier.

“Destination Moon,” an exhibit set to open in 2022, will update and replace the museum’s 1976 “Apollo to the Moon” display, which closed last year as part of the museum’s $1 billion renovation.

“You didn’t need a huge amount of context [in the 1970s],” said Apollo exhibit curator Teasel Muir-Harmony, noting that many museum visitors today were born after the moon program ended in 1972. “Today, 50 years later, there’s much less familiarity with the program.”

In 2017, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum announced the creation of “Destination Moon,” a retelling of the Apollo program missions, the U.S.-Soviet space race and President John F. Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, among other events.

The new exhibit will include artifacts such as the Apollo 11 Command Module and the spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong when he first set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Presentations will delve into the technology of lunar exploration, the politics of the space race, the world’s reactions to the moon landing and the accounts of the Apollo missions as recalled by the astronauts’ families.

“This was really a massive mobilization, and it wasn’t something that was just happening in Florida or Texas or Washington or Alabama,” Ms. Muir-Harmony said.

The previous exhibit focused mostly on the astronauts who set foot on the moon, but “Destination Moon” will highlight the thousands of scientists, engineers, mathematicians and others who dedicated themselves behind the scenes to make the Apollo missions a success.

“No one wanted to be the person that was responsible for the mission not working,” Ms. Muir-Harmony said. “People working on Apollo had a sense of purpose and duty.”

Until the exhibit opens, a number of Apollo artifacts are sitting in storage waiting to be restored or traveling around the country in a touring display.

A smaller version of “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission” already has traveled to four cities since 2017. It currently is in Seattle where it will remain for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20.

The Apollo 11 Command Module — Columbia, which served as living quarters for its three astronauts — is traveling with the exhibit, along with Buzz Aldrin’s helmet and other gear used in the mission.

After the permanent exhibit opens, a space will remain empty to update information about NASA’s new lunar exploration — Project Artemis, which aims to put a woman on the moon.

Ms. Muir-Harmony said that going back to the moon and then to Mars will be remarkable, but NASA can’t recreate the excitement of the first mission to the moon.

“It isn’t possible to recreate that Apollo moment,” she said. “Part of what contributed to it was how brand new space exploration was in the 1960s This was a program that impacted the lives of millions of people.”

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