'Destination Moon' Shows How Vital Pittsburgh Was To Apollo Mission

The historic exhibit debuts at the Heinz History Center Saturday

Andrew Limberg
September 28, 2018 - 12:53 pm

Related: PHOTOS: Explore Destination Moon At Heinz History Center

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - The Senator John Heinz History Center opens  an exhibit this Saturday that is literally out of this world.

“Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission” is traveling to only four cities outside of Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh is the only one east of the Mississippi to host the traveling exhibit.

“Destination Moon” celebrates the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing mission that put a man on the moon almost 50 years ago.

The exhibit features more than 100 artifacts surrounding the mission including the crown jewel, the Command Module Columbia, the craft flown by Michael Collins that orbited the moon while Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the Lunar Module to the moon’s surface. It also features and actual piece of the Moon!

Andrew Limberg

The exhibit will also have plenty of activities for children including a command module replica that kids can climb into and explore as well as a lunar lander video game and 3-D tour of Columbia’s interior

The exhibit is traveling while a big renovation of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum takes place. The History Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian.

President and CEO of the Heinz History Center Andy Masich says it’s fitting that Pittsburgh host the historic exhibit.

“It took 400,000 Americans to put a man on the moon but a lot of those folks came from Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh industry played a major part in putting that man on the moon.”

  • Some of the local people and companies that help sent a man to the moon:

Alcoa: Supplied more than a million pounds of aluminum that was used in the construction of the Saturn V rocket that propelled the astronauts into space Also a lot of the command and lunar module were also made of aluminum including the hatch and ladder Armstrong used to take those historic first steps.

American Bridge Company: Built the structure where the Saturn V rocket was assembled.

Blaw-Know Steel Company: Built the antenna stations that provided communication during the mission and beamed back images take by Lunar Orbiters

Mine Safety Appliance Company: Developed respirators the astronauts used when they came back to Earth and were quarantined to make sure they didn’t bring any infectious diseases back with them.

North American Rockwell: built a majority of the Saturn V rocket. Even though the work was done in California, the corporate headquarters was in Pittsburgh.

Union Switch and Signal: Provided the relays that launched Armstrong and Aldrin into their ascent from the Moon back to the command module.

Westinghouse Electric: “Developed the camera that beamed images of Aldrin and Armstrong on the Moon into millions of American’ living rooms.”

Many other industrials contributed in one form or another including PPG Industries, Crucible Steel, Allegheny Ludlum (now ATI), Three-B Optical Company and more.

And the Pittsburgh connections don’t end there. Pittsburgher Jack Kinzler, who was the Chief of Technical Services for NASA, invented the telescoping flag poll that allows the American flag to “fly” without any wind on the moon. A prototype is on display. There's even a piece of art from Pittsburgh's own Andy Warhol in the exhibit.

Andrew Limberg

The exhibit also celebrates the eight astronauts from Western PA and looks toward the future with the "Peregrine Lunar Lander" which was developed by Carnegie Mellon University roboticist Red Whittaker. The Peregrine is expected to launch in late 2020.

“Destination Moon” which marks the first time Columbia has left the Smithsonian since 1972 will be on display through February 18, 2019.

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