Lonely Planet Writer

The Apollo 11 command module will take off on tour around the US for the next two years

It once went to the moon and back in the historic journey that saw the first two humans land on the moon, and now the Apollo 11 command module Columbia is set to go on another journey, this time around the US. Columbia and 20 one-of-a-kind artifacts from the Apollo 11 era will travel 8000 miles and visit four museums over two years, in an exhibition called Destination Moon.

Visitors look at the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia at the Smithsonian. Image: Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images
Visitors look at the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia at the Smithsonian. Image: Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images

In 1969, Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. The command module was a cabin that housed the crew of three and equipment needed for re-entry and splashdown. While Neil and Buzz were on the lunar surface, Michael Collins piloted Columbia alone in lunar orbit. To mark the 50th anniversary of the historic expedition, an exhibition has been developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the National Air and Space Museum.

The deployment of scientific experiments by astronaut Edwin Aldrin Jr. is photographed by astronaut Neil Armstrong. Image: NASA/Newsmakers
The deployment of scientific experiments by astronaut Edwin Aldrin Jr. is photographed by astronaut Neil Armstrong. Image: NASA/Newsmakers

The now charred and battered Columbia will travel to the Space Center Houston from 14 October 2017 to 18 March 2018 and continue to the Saint Louis Science Center from 14 April to  3 September 2018. After that, it will be exhibited at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh from 29 September 2018, to 18 February 2019, and will finish up at Seattle’s Museum of Flight from 16 March to 2 September 2019.

The exhibition will feature an interactive 3D tour that will allow visitors to explore the command module’s interior, and they will be able to see notes written by the astronaut crew. They will also see the lunar sample return container that brought more than 47 pounds of lunar samples that Armstrong and Aldrin collected back to earth, Buzz Aldrin’s extravehicular visor and Michael Collins’ “solo book,” which contains flight plans and contingencies.

The launch of the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969. Image: NASA Image Library
The launch of the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969. Image: NASA Image Library

Organisers of the tour had to be careful to check floor-load capacities and dimensions, as Columbia weighs 9130 pounds and its transport ring almost 4500 pounds and it needs equipment to rig it in place. It is also ten and a half feet tall and 13 feet in diameter, and this tour marks the first time Columbia has left Washington since the Smithsonian’s opening in 1976.