Transcript: Exhibit Tour | Destination Moon [VIDEO]

Andy Masich, President and CEO, Heinz History Center:

Hi. I’m Andy Masich, President and CEO here at the Senator John Heinz History Center, a proud affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and the largest history museum in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Today, we’re going to take a tour of Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission. It’s a collaborative project with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and SITES, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibits Service. Let’s take a tour!

[Apollo 11 Moon Landing recording: It’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.]

As early as human beings could dream, they thought of going to the Moon. They saw that moon in the night sky and they imagined human beings going there. In 1865, science fiction writer Jules Vern wrote a book called “Voyage to the Moon.”  In 1902, Georges Méliès made a motion picture of sending a man to the Moon. Vern had been inspired by a great cannon that was designed and built here in Pittsburgh by Thomas Jackson Rodman. This giant cannon was thought to be capable of hurtling a missile all the way to the Moon, and that’s what the movie’s about. That dream stayed with Americans, stayed with the people of the world, until 1969 when it became a reality.

The Wright Brothers had flown for the first time in 1903. It wouldn’t have been possible without Pittsburgh because here in Pittsburgh the Aluminum Company of America, Alcoa as we know it today, could make light-weight, but strong metal materials, aluminum. The Wright Brothers couldn’t get their glider off the ground, but they came to Pittsburgh in 1903, got an aluminum engine block, and got off the ground at Kitty Hawk. Sixty-six years later, Neil Armstrong, the mission commander, brought with him this piece of canvas and those fragments of wood from the Wright flyer and he made that connection that 66 years earlier, human beings had flown for the first time and now, men were walking on the Moon.

[JFK speech: We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are eay, but because they are hard.]

When John F. Kennedy became president, he made a vow that the United States would put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade of the 1960s and bring that man safely back to Earth. It was a bold claim. The United States was behind the Russians in the space race, but American ingenuity, with 400,000 Americans, 20,000 corporation working together, the Americans were bound to do it. All around the country Americans worked. They were mathematicians and steel workers. They were scientists who used slide rules, people like Elayne Arrington from Pittsburgh. The things you see in this case are just some of the objects that make the Pittsburgh connection. American Bridge Company, Mine Safety Appliance, Westinghouse, U.S. Steel, Alcoa Aluminum, and so many others participated in the research and development that resulted in a successful Moon landing.

The American Mercury Program followed by the Gemini Program, one-man ships, two-man ships, gave way to the Apollo missions. Apollo 1 was manned by Gus Grissom, Roger Chafee, and Ed White. In 1967, these three astronauts were tragically killed in a fire in the Command Module while they were on a practice mission on the launch pad at Florida. One of the causes of that tragedy was the fact that the astronauts could not escape from their Command Module, so a new hatch was designed with a pump handle that could allow the astronauts to escape in seconds. This is the actual hatch from Apollo 11 with its redesigned mechanism. Apollo 11 had a three-man crew, led by Neil Armstrong, the commander from Wapakoneta, Ohio. Michael Collins was the Command Module pilot. He was the man assigned to stay with the Command Module as it orbited the Moon while Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong went to the lunar surface.

There were five F-1 engines on the Saturn V rocket that blasted the astronauts off on July 16, 1969. This piece of that F-1 engine was found by Jeff Bezos miles down on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, 45 years after the Apollo 11 launch.

The Columbia Command Module was designed and built by North America Rockwell, a Pittsburgh-based company. It’s an amazing piece of technology. You can see the silver skin has all been burned off upon reentry and the ablative shield at the bottom is all charred. It experienced 3,000-degree Fahrenheit temperatures when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Those three Apollo astronauts found themselves cramped in this tiny vessel for eight days. It’s something that Americans today see as a national treasure and it hasn’t left the Smithsonian Institution since it became part of the collection. This is very special for it to be here in Pittsburgh and then to be traveling to other venues in the United States.

As we come over here, we’re going to see a big picture of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong. In fact, you can see Armstrong’s image reflected in Buzz Aldrin’s helmet. Over here, we have that actual helmet. You can also see his gauntlets, his gloves. On the cuff of the gauntlet you’ll see the instructions that are printed on the cuff. It’s kind of like a quarterback’s cheat sheet with his plays on it, but this one says things like “Don’t forget to close the hatch.” They had these big boxy cooling systems on their back. As the astronauts got back into the lunar lander, Buzz Aldrin spun around in the cramped space and broke off the switches that controlled the firing relays that would blast off the rockets that would allow them to get off the Moon. As mission control tried to MacGyver a solution to it, Buzz Aldrin figured it out on his own. He took the silver barreled pen that had been velcroed to his space suit, a felt-tipped pen, and he modified it to fit into the hole left by the broken switch. At exactly the right time, watching the second hand on his watch, he inserted the pen into the broken switch hole, cranked it up, you can see the dents on the barrel of the pen, and the rockets fired and the ascent vehicle rendezvoused with the Command Module where Michael Collins was waiting for them.

Visitors who find themselves in this portion of the exhibit can go to the mission control command center and, using these high-definition photographs, you can go into the capsule and see every nook and cranny. Here we see graffiti left by the astronauts inside the Command Module. As you look around this portion of the exhibit, you can find out much more about the interior of that space craft.

In the center of the room you’ll see the box that contained 47.5 pounds of rocks. It doesn’t seem like much to us today, but no one had been on the surface of the Moon. They weren’t even sure how deep that powdery surface was. One of the most interesting things in this part of the exhibit is the American flag. This pole design was done by a Pittsburgher named Jack Kinzler. Kinzler was the head of NASA’s technical services department. He came up with an idea for a telescoping aluminum pole with a cantilevered arm on it. If it weren’t for this design, that flag would just kind of hang there because there’s no wind on the Moon.

Speaking of amazing Pittsburgh innovations, right here we see a prototype camera made by Westinghouse, a family of businesses that had been started right here in Pittsburgh in 1869 with George Westinghouse. This camera had to function 250-degrees Fahrenheit or 150-degrees below zero. These extreme conditions made it very difficult for electronic devices in outer space and Westinghouse had been getting a lot of military contracts. They knew how to harden electronic devices. That’s why they got the contract to do the cameras.

Nine Pittsburghers have been chosen as astronauts over the years and this is the story of some of those astronauts. We have the PPK, the Personal Preference Kit of Jay Apt, a Pittsburgh boy who tried three times to become an astronaut and, on the last time, succeeded. He went on space shuttle missions. He orbited the Earth over 500 times and his is a story of passion and perseverance. We even have some of the toys used by astronauts, Pittsburgh astronauts, when they were kids. There’s a ray gun and a space shuttle, but those toys helped influence those kids and gave them the desire to find out more about what’s out there.

Here we see the Andy rover. Red Whittaker, the father of modern robotics, said that they named this lunar rover for Andy Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. You can see students came together to create a functional lunar rover with its aggressive tires and its photovoltaic cells and cameras. It’s designed for extreme conditions on the lunar surface. It was part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE project. Behind us is the Peregrine Lunar Lander designed by Astrobotic, a company right here in the Strip District in Pittsburgh. It’s also the brain child of Red Whittaker, John Thornton is the Chief Executive Officer, and they’re designing things like this that will find their way to the Moon in years ahead.

It’s an amazing story. It’s a story you can learn here at the Senator John Heinz History Center in this wonderful exhibition done in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.