I want to begin this blog post by saying this exhibition, NASA – A Human Adventure, has been created to celebrate 50 years since the Moon Landing. Since then, the historiography of who was involved has been revised exposing those, particularly women, who achieved virtually the impossible to make the event happen. Unfortunately, this exhibition does not include them. I wanted to get this out of the way because I was so excited to see the exhibition and left feeling as if these important figures in history have yet again been hidden. This was a real opportunity to include these forgotten histories. Alas, the opportunity was not grasped and I believe the exhibition suffered from it.
I would by lying if I said this didn’t taint my entire experience. As I went from room to room looking at huge posters of American and Soviet Union men I was continuously hopeful that the other stories might be around the next corner.
The rest of this post is going to focus on the objects I found fascinating. I will say that, on the whole, the objects are displayed thoughtfully in beautifully designed cabinets. Whoever designed all the display elements did a wonderful job.
Before entering the exhibition, there is a thematic panel that covers everything you’d expect to see – including the aim of the exhibition. The placement of this panel, just outside the exhibition, is refreshing. It means there is no bottleneck formed when first entering the space. At the bottom of the panel are two small images of a moon and footprint. Thirteen objects in the exhibition have a moon next to them indicating they have been on successful Apollo missions. Those with a moon and footprint mean they have landed on the moon. This sets the scene nicely and provides some extra information to look out for while in the space.
1. Space Pyjamas and Drink Bottles/Lunchboxes
The label for the first two objects I want to share doesn’t really say much except ‘Space Pyjamas’ and ‘Space-themed Vintage Lunchboxes’. Just quickly, all the object labels are on computer screens. This makes them difficult to read and I imagine visitor fatigue would set in quicker than if you were looking at a conventional label. I did try and find more information on the pyjamas, however, was not successful. Random side note, I did find that on 20 July this year the Science Museum in London is having a Space Sleepover where kids aged between 7 and 13 will get a free pair of ‘spacey pyjamas’.
What I appreciate most about these objects is the fact they really show how significant the Moon Landing was in capturing the attention and imagination of the public. You can just imagine excited children taking their space lunch boxes to school and hoping that one day they might have the chance to go on a space ship and travel to the moon.
These are the objects I was most excited to see. On display are 8 spacesuits ranging from those worn in space to those used in training. A personal favourite of mine is spacesuit number 5, an Apollo and Skylab A7LB spacesuit that has been dissected to show the different layers. Details can be found in the caption for each photograph.
3. Apollo Survival Kit
In what is known as a ‘splashdown’, Apollo missions, on returning to earth, landed in bodies of water. This kit has everything you need to survive 48 hours in the ocean – three water containers, one radio beacon and spare battery, three pairs of sunglasses, six packages of desalted chemicals, one desalter kit, two survival lights, one machete and two bottles of sunscreen.
4. Three Hasselblad 70 mm Film Magazine
Two of these cameras (numbers 4 & 5) made it to the moon on the Apollo 12 and Apollo 17 missions. The other (number 3) was taken into moon orbit on the Apollo 8 mission. Number 5 is the camera used by Eugene Andrew Cernan on the last Moon landing mission in 1972, Apollo 17.
Some of the items in this display case made me feel nauseous. Most notably, the remnants of the mixed Italian vegetables (number 10) and the Canadian bacon and apple sauce (number 3). This display really makes you think about the logistical day-to-day needs of the astronauts and how products, such as food, have to be packaged.
6. Letter from Queensland
As the exhibition is at the Queensland Museum, there had to be a link somewhere. This letter was sent by Michelle Cooke from Scarborough who witnessed the Moon Landing when she was 16. She sent a letter of congratulations to the astronauts and received a letter in return from Neil Armstrong thanking her for her well wishes. Something she treasured for life.
7. Gemini Survival Kit and Life Raft Pack
Needless to say, I find survival kits fascinating. There is something about reducing everything you need during a disaster or emergency into one kit that makes me feel like the situation is under control. In this kit, another ‘splashdown’ kit, there is a radio, pocket knife, signal mirror, shark repellent, seawater desalting tablets, sunscreen, soap, sunglasses, first-aid kit and some other items.
As I said at the beginning, I was very disappointed in the content displayed. The objects were amazing and they were carefully displayed. Considering there is quite a cost involved in visiting, I would encourage you think about what the exhibition covers before making your decision.
NASA – A Human Adventure is on display at the Queensland Museum until 9 October 2019. It is an accessible exhibition. Tickets can be purchased online before visiting and a season pass is available.