Lunar Artifacts

StarDate: July 19, 2009

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When the astronauts of Apollo 11 blasted into space 40 years ago, their Saturn 5 rocket stood more than 30 stories tall and weighed six and a half million pounds. When they returned to Earth eight days later, all that was left was a squat capsule just 10 feet tall and weighing a few thousand pounds.

Known as Columbia, that capsule is on display at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. It's one of several Apollo-related exhibits around the country that's open to the public.

Full-size Saturn rockets are on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Apollo 11 was launched, and at Johnson Space Center in Houston, the home of Mission Control. And the control room where Gene Kranz and his team helped guide Apollo 11 to the Moon is one stop on the space center's public tours.

Bits of lunar rock and soil from several Apollo missions are on display at more than three dozen museums around the country.

Most of those samples are sealed behind glass. But three of them are "touchstones" -- you can rub your finger across them. They're at the National Air & Space Museum and the Johnson and Kennedy space centers.

The Apollo 11 astronauts left many other artifacts on the Moon -- from the descent stage of their lunar module to the backpacks from their spacesuits. Someday in the distant future, those artifacts may form a new tourist attraction -- for visitors to the Moon.

More about Apollo 11 tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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