The exhibition When We Went the Moon ends up in the Intrepid Museum in New York

By | March 27, 2024

Given that they were naval vessels that the Apollo crews and spacecraft recovered after dropping from the moon, it is fitting that the largest temporary exhibition ever staged by the Intrepid – a converted aircraft carrier – is themed around the first moon landings.

The museum, which has been on the west side of Manhattan since 1982, has showcased “Apollo: When We Went to the Moon,” a sprawling exhibit that “highlights the remarkable history of humanity’s journey beyond our home planet and the extraordinary individuals who have made it happen.” And although the USS Intrepid was not involved in the Apollo recovery operations (it brought home the second manned Mercury and the first piloted Gemini capsules), it has since become a world-class sea, air and space museum and home to NASA’s prototype Space Shuttle orbiter.

“’Apollo’ focuses deeply on how humans persevered to get to the moon and space in general,” said Kate Good, space curator at the Intrepid Museum, in an interview with “The content has the underlying theme of the space race woven into it, with the sense of monumental urgency to be first in everything. That intensity and continued determination spurred the US to continue developing breakthrough technologies.”

“All of these themes have been consistent from the beginning of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects, which brought us into the space shuttle era, and include the museum’s beloved shuttle Enterprise,” Good said. “Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the people, politics and STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] progress that has made and continues to make the U.S. space program stronger and more successful than ever.”

Developed by the education and curatorial staff of the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama and Flying Fish, a traveling exhibition company, “Apollo” uses photographs and artifacts from the rocket center’s archives, as well as interactive experiences, to illustrate the motivations that pushing the United States and the former Soviet Union to “sacrifice man and machine to be the first on the moon.”

Visitors are greeted by the sights and sounds of the 1960s space race as they enter “Apollo,” which spans 8,400 square feet in the Intrepid’s space shuttle pavilion. As they walk beneath Enterprise and through the exhibit, guests will learn about the technological advances that made the moon landings possible and the cultural and political climates that influenced the outcome. “Apollo” includes displays devoted to the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, as well as the public’s reaction to the moon landings.

Among a collection of scale models – including a towering 1:10 scale Saturn V – ‘Apollo’ showcases artefacts rarely seen by the public. Here visitors will find the drawing set of German rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun; an authentic Jupiter rocket nose cone; a Soviet SK-1 spacesuit like the type worn by the first human to fly into space, Yuri Gagarin; and the gloves, bubble helmet and moon boots of an Apollo spacesuit.

Among the artifacts

Among the artifacts

“Personally, my favorite artifacts in the exhibit are the authentic hand casts of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins,” said Good. “The casts were used to ensure that their spacesuit gloves fit perfectly, without having to measure their hands over and over again.”

“Astute observers might even notice this nice detail: Michael Collins’ cast includes a print of his wedding ring,” she said.

Visitors can not only look, but also touch a piece of the moon in the form of a lunar meteorite and make their own imprints in the moon dust by walking on a digital lunar surface. Guests can also climb aboard a mockup of an Apollo moon rover for what Intrepid promises to be a unique photo opportunity.

“The Intrepid Museum has added more detailed content, which can be accessed through the ‘Bloomberg Connects’ app,” Good said, referring to the free mobile guide to museums and parks. “There are several QR codes that direct visitors to additional information about Wernher von Braun, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and NASA’s current Artemis program.”

In In


The Intrepid has also scheduled a virtual presentation on June 23 with astronaut Fred Haise, who will speak about his experiences aboard Apollo 13. On site, the museum will host Astro Live evenings with exhibition-related activities on April 26 and July 26.

Entrepreneur and private astronaut Greg Olsen, whose Soyuz spacecraft is also on display in the shuttle pavilion, provided partial support to bring the exhibit to the Intrepid.

Previous ‘Apollo’ tour stops include the US Space & Rocket Center, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Space Center Houston, Discovery Place in North Carolina, the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan, TELUS World of Science in Canada, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

“Apollo: When We Went to the Moon” will be on view at the Intrepid Museum from Tuesday, March 26 through September 2.

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