PGAV Destinations-designed exhibit marks next stage in Apollo Program at Virginia Air and Space Center (VASC) in Hampton, Virginia
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” espoused President John F. Kennedy from the podium at Rice University on September 12, 1962. With the nation galvanized to achieve his vision, that unthinkable mission was achieved seven years later on July 20, 1969, with Apollo 11. Just four months later, America replicated the feat once more, with the most precise moon landing executed to date: Apollo XII.
“The Apollo XII mission reflects the passion and exuberance generated by the success of the Apollo 11 mission, an immediate turnaround to refine the process and expand our understanding of space travel and the lunar surface,” said Virginia Air and Space Center (VASC) Executive Director and CEO, Robert Griesmer. “The team achieved the first and only precise landing near a precedent probe – Surveyor 3.”
As the sixth manned flight of the Apollo program, the 20-day Apollo XII mission carried Commander Charles Conrad Jr., Command Module Pilot Richard Gordon Jr., and Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean into space on November 14, 1969, successfully landing on the surface of the moon five days later on November 19. Lunar module Intrepid touched down in the Ocean of Storms with precision targeting, an essential procedure being tested for future Apollo missions. “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me,” were Commander Conrad’s first words as he set foot on the lunar surface. Conrad and Pilot Bean then collected rocks, retrieved key equipment from the Surveyor 3 probe for analysis back on Earth, and gathered atmospheric measurements of the moon’s magnetic field, solar wind flux, and seismicity. The command module Yankee Clipper safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of American Samoa five days later with all three men aboard.
Established in 1917, the Langley Research Center is the first American laboratory dedicated to the advancement of aeronautics. Its team of driven scientists began exploring manned space flight in the early 1950s, conceived and directed Project Mercury – the original man-in-space program, and was where the original NASA astronauts received their basic training, such as Alan Shepard, Virgil Grissom, John Glenn, and more.
The new Apollo XII exhibit at VASC features the Yankee Clipper as its centerpiece, tilted to showcase the heat shield, which protected the three astronauts upon re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. The Yankee Clipper is the only portion of the entire mission assembly to return to Earth.
“2019 is a remarkable year to celebrate humankind’s first landing on anything beyond our own atmosphere,” said Tom Owen, PGAV Destinations project lead and vice president. “But what we often overlook is that Apollo 11 was simply one step in a long line of innovation, carefully calculated to achieve greater, and more technical, milestones in the exploration of our galaxy. Apollo XII is our chance to showcase ‘and then what?’ It’s as if we’re telling the next chapter after Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific Coast.”
The new Apollo XII gallery explores the essential components of the mission’s preparation, duration, and aftermath. The relationship between the Apollo program, NASA’s larger vision, and the Langley Center are explored in the context of educating about mission preparation, assembly liftoff, landing on the moon, scientific tests on its surface, returning to the orbiting command module, and re-entry and splashdown in the Pacific. The elliptical footprint of the new exhibit space reflects celestial orbits, with the ever-growing concentric circles showing where piloted space travel has been, where we are today, and where we intend to travel in the future. The gallery completes with a look to the future, and a return to the moon with the goal of establishing a permanent American base on its surface as a jumping-off point for piloted missions to Mars.
PGAV Destinations has previously designed the Space Shuttle Atlantis museum at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, as well as the recently-opened Neil Armstrong Space Exploration Gallery at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The design firm is continuing its legacy of celebrating and educating about aeronautics at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, where it is serving as the lead visitor experience design firm for the Commons. Learn more on WTKR’s Coast Live.
About the Virginia Air & Space Center at the NASA Langley Visitor Center
The Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC) is the official visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center. VASC’s mission is to educate, entertain, and inspire the next generation of explorers. The Center is the region’s leader in informal education bringing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to the Hampton Roads community while focusing on the vast accomplishments of the NASA Langley Research Center spanning 100 years of flight, displaying more than 30 historic aircraft, hands-on space exploration gallery and unique space flight artifacts. All four American space capsules are on display, the Gemini, Mercury, Apollo 12, and the new Orion Capsule which will carry America back to the international space station and beyond. The Center has the largest IMAX screen in the region and is in the process of implementing the Master Plan developed and designed by PGAV Destinations.
Virginia Air & Space Center is located at 600 Settlers Landing Road in beautiful Downtown Hampton. www.vasc.org