On Thursday, May 18, I had a chance to attend a press preview for The Museum of Flight’s newest exhibit, APOLLO, which opened to the public on May 20. If you are as much of a space nerd as I am, you are going to fall in love with the time capsule gallery of history.
Apollo 12 and Apollo 16’s F-1 engines that boosted the Saturn V Moon rockets were lost 3 miles down at the bottom of the ocean for 43 years. In 2013, the Bezos Expeditions, led by David Concannon, discovered the sunken remains and raised the engines to the surface. The engines are the centerpiece of the new APOLLO exhibit and for comparison, a full-scale F-1 rocket engine on loan from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center is on display next to the long-lost booster.
The Museum of Flight Executive Vice President, Matt Hayes, welcomed everyone to the press preview and mentioned this was the first public display of engines that went to the Moon. He thanked the countless individuals who helped make this exhibit possible, include Jeff Bezos, David Concannon, Nancy Conrad (wife of astronaut, Pete Conrad), and many others.
Geoff Nunn, Adjunct Space Curator for the Museum spoke about the growth of the Museum and how displays and exhibits started getting a little jumbled. When they opened the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery across the street from the main Museum, they then found themselves having three separate areas dedicated to space flight. They also had a tremendous collection of items from Apollo 12 astronaut, Pete Conrad, next to an aircraft collection and wanted to bring them out for full display to bring a better visual context. In 2012, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and founder of Bezos Expeditions, said he had located the F-1 engines from Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 and wanted to get both of them. Jeff wanted to give one of the salvaged rockets to the Smithsonian and the other to The Museum of Flight. With that, the Museum knew it was time truly showcase Conrad’s artifacts. Geoff said the Museum wanted to make Apollo accessible to a larger audience and keep the program relevant for the next generation of space explorers.
David Concannon, who led the Bezos Expeditions team in the recovery of the F-1 engines, spoke about how his ultimate goal was to inspire the 5-year olds. He and Jeff wanted to recreate for others what they felt like as children on July 20, 1969, when they watched man first walk on the moon. David talked about the times he went to Florida and Houston alone and unannounced, just to spend time looking at the rockets and thinking about the stories each one had to tell. Each of the engines on display at NASA and other museums tell the story of when the United States came together, when the technology hadn’t been invented, when there was no money available, all to fulfill the dream of President Kennedy to have a man on the moon. We can accomplish something that is so much bigger than ourselves and tell the story for generations to come.
Seth Margolis, Director of the William A. Helsell Education Department for the Museum really brought home what was done to put man on the moon. Slide rules were used to break the laws of gravity, only 66 years after the Wright Brothers made their first flight. Think about that with all the technology we have today! He wanted the Museum to inspire students who see themselves in a STEM future.
Doug King, President and CEO of The Museum of Flight, reiterated that the Museum wants to tell the story of the past so the story of the future can begin right here in Seattle. He also announced that Mark Armstrong, son of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, would be donating new items to the Museum. Mark donated small fragments of a propeller and wing fabric from the first Wright brother’s airplane, which his father took to the moon and back, to be on display at The Museum of Flight.
I highly recommend bringing your family to The Museum of Flight to check out the new APOLLO exhibit, and inspire your little ones to look into the sky and reach for heavens.
The Museum of Flight
9404 E. Marginal Way South
Seattle, WA 98108-4097