Destination Moon

Apollo 11 Command Module – Columbia

The Saint Louis Science Center is now hosting the exhibit, Destination Moon. This Smithsonian created show will complete its four city tour next year in Seattle, on the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing. Saint Louis was awarded its stop in honor of its creation of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.

I can still remember that July evening, almost fifty years ago, when men first walked upon the moon. I was summering at my maternal grandfather’s resort in Massachusetts, the Pond. Our cottage didn’t have its own TV set, so we went to a neighboring cottage to watch the moon landing. It was a black & white and being in the country, its reception wasn’t the best. When the live moon feed was added, the picture became nearly unintelligible. Still it was a momentous event.

Years later, when I moved to Saint Louis, I worked at McDonnell Douglas. I met engineers who had built the Mercury and Gemini space capsules. They recounted President Kennedy’s famous inspection tour of the plant. While, I was working there, manufacturing of the space shuttle orbiter’s maneuvering system pods was underway, Each pod was as big as a truck. Later, I had the opportunity to work with the same high altitude test chamber that was originally built to test the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.

Destination Moon is a title that this exhibit shares with a 1950s science-fiction film. In this movie, a failed government rocket launch leads the government to abandon the race to the moon. American industrialists step-in and pick up the mantle of manned spaceflight. A rocket is dispatched to the moon and safely returns, but not before one of the astronauts poses for a photo, with the Earth seemingly resting on his shoulder. It all sounds rather prophetic. 

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