NASA dusts off forgotten artifacts in new exhibit

July 16, 2009 By JESSICA GRESKO , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- The spacesuit was one of three made for the last man to set foot on the moon, but Doug Fisher found it balled up and forgotten at the bottom of a cardboard box.

Fisher has been rummaging around NASA's "attic" for about a year - exploring the recesses of the space agency's warehouses in Cape Canaveral. And Gene Cernan's vintage , buried beneath flashlights, wasn't his first find.

Other objects Fisher has rediscovered went on display Thursday at a new exhibit at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The opening coincides with the 40th anniversary of , Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin blasting off to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission. Cernan's forgotten suit will go on display in the fall near the "Apollo Treasures" gallery, which already features some two dozen artifacts.

The museum-style exhibit is an unusual step for NASA, which was so focused on its mission to put a man on the moon in the 1960s that archiving and preserving the objects that made the 239,000-mile journey wasn't a priority, Fisher said. Some historic items went to the Smithsonian in Washington, while other items were abandoned. The agency previously relied on technology and entertainment like a flight simulator - not history - to educate visitors.

"When something came to the end of its utility ... it tended to drop off the radar," Fisher said. "Like any large institution (objects) found their way to various display areas and hiding areas throughout the property. I think everybody can relate to that."

Now that's changing. NASA just opened a large warehouse to store artifacts. AND Fisher, who develops and oversees exhibits at Kennedy's visitor's center, has been combing warehouses. HE has recorded some 2,000 pieces of what might previously been considered "space junk" since arriving at NASA in early 2008.

Among the objects Fisher has rediscovered: the flight log used on Apollo 7 with notes handwritten by the astronauts like "landing in Apollo is a CRASH!" and a plaque Apollo 13 astronauts gave NASA in appreciation for their safe return.

On display are objects ranging from hand casts of the Apollo 11 astronauts used to make their gloves to canisters to transport moon rocks. The space itself, meanwhile, is built to look like a vault. Inside, some displays are designed to mimic jewelry boxes, their tops cracked open to reveal items: a videocamera used to broadcast from space, a spacesuit repair kit and a credit card-sized checklist worn on an astronaut's wrist that includes instructions on everything from how to gather lunar rocks to how to plant the American flag.

Not everything in the exhibit is new. The biggest piece is the Apollo 14 capsule that flew to the moon in 1971. It was previously on display nearby at NASA's Astronaut Hall of Fame. Washington's National Air and Space Museum - the repository of many NASA artifacts - also loaned the exhibit four early spacesuits. The prototypes show NASA experimenting with different joints for long missions. They include a spacesuit from the early 1960s that only bends forward and back at the waist and an 83-pound aluminum "RX-2" spacesuit from 1964 that looks like a knight's armor.

There may be even more to come.

The week before the exhibit opened Fisher went into a dark storeroom with a flashlight. Behind broken prop helmets, laying on a desk, was a spacesuit. Fisher had been told it was a replica. But as he waved his flashlight over it he saw the suit's blue fingertips and the glint of a silvery fabric, characteristics of authentic suits. When he pulled it into the light he was positive it was real. A patch identified its wearer: N. Armstrong.

"We think it's Neil Armstrong's backup suit," Fisher said. "It just sort of got left behind."

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: NASA honors Apollo moon walker Buzz Aldrin

Related Stories

NASA honors Apollo moon walker Buzz Aldrin

March 17, 2006

NASA will honor former astronaut Buzz Aldrin for his involvement in the U.S. space program with the presentation of the Ambassador of Exploration Award.

Museum battles to preserve moon suits for posterity

July 16, 2009

They have travelled further than any fashion item on Earth, surviving a hostile environment and extremes of heat and cold on a world far from ours. But now age is catching up with NASA spacesuits.

NASA honors late astronaut Charles Conrad

November 8, 2006

NASA says it will honor former astronaut Charles "Pete" Conrad for his involvement in the U.S. space program with the Ambassador of Exploration award.

NASA listens to Apollo-era scientists

July 10, 2007

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the first moon landing by reuniting retired scientists.

Recommended for you

Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe

March 22, 2017

A molecule found in car engine exhaust fumes that is thought to have contributed to the origin of life on Earth has made astronomers heavily underestimate the amount of stars that were forming in the early Universe, a University ...

Giant magnetic fields in the universe

March 22, 2017

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), ...

Sand flow theory could explain water-like streaks on Mars

March 22, 2017

(—A team of researchers from France and the Slovak Republic has proposed a theory to explain the water-like streaks that appear seasonally on the surface of Mars, which do not involve water. In their paper published ...

Ice in Ceres' shadowed craters linked to tilt history

March 22, 2017

Dwarf planet Ceres may be hundreds of millions of miles from Jupiter, and even farther from Saturn, but the tremendous influence of gravity from these gas giants has an appreciable effect on Ceres' orientation. In a new study, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.