In 2010, I had the opportunity to visit the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, USA. The feeling of seeing the Mercury Friendship 7 capsule up close is still vivid, with its exposed screws and age-oxidized plates.
It was hard to believe that anyone ever had the courage to squeeze in there to reach Earth orbit and make a complete circle around the planet in 1962—months after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made the first spaceflight in 1961, giving the lead to the Soviet Union in the space race in the midst of the Cold War. To my eyes, the capsule used by American astronaut John Glenn looked like a giant washing machine.
In a few years, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin would be the first human beings to set foot on the moon. at the “Space Adventure” exhibition, which begins this Thursday, the 26th, in a tent of 2,600 square meters in the parking lot of the Eldorado shopping mall — visits will be organized in groups of 30 people.
In addition to original objects, gathered in a partnership with the Cosmophere Museum and Space Education Center, in the United States, the exhibition also has 20 replicas, some in real size, such as the seven-meter tall Eagle lunar module, and that of the Columbia command module, which brought the three Apollo 11 astronauts back to Earth: Armstrong, Buzz, and Michael Collins—who went, but didn’t set foot on the Moon.
The exhibition has been created for nine years by Rafael Reisman, who also created the show “The Elvis Experience”, about the singer Elvis Presley, which ran in 2012. “This is the first and largest exhibition in the world dedicated to the Apollo program ” says Reisman, director of Blast Entertainment.
A small United States flag that astronaut Charles Duke carried in his pocket when he stepped on the moon on the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 is one of Reisman’s favorite pieces on display. About to turn 86, Duke is one of the three men still alive who set foot on the moon. This Thursday, the 26th, at 3 pm, the astronaut will participate in the seminar “Why Go to Space?”, broadcast on Folha’s website.
The boots worn by Duke on his moonwalks can also be seen — it is astonishing to see the moon dust still embedded in the astronaut’s shoes. A frayed part on the right arm of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s clothing (which, yes, inspired the character Buzz Lightyear from the animation “Toy Story”) is also a cause of amazement.
The exhibition presents the Apollo project’s journeys in their smallest details, such as the clothing’s internal heating and cooling system, the canned or dehydrated foods used by the astronauts — from chewing gum to macaroni and cheese and bacon bars — and even the schematics to make up the necessities in the space, with the right to bactericidal tablets for the feces.
Reisman also highlights the collection of film and photograph cameras used by astronauts. Beside the machines, on a light table, there is a series of slides with all those famous photos from the last century: the footprint of the boot on the Moon’s ground, the astronaut beside the flag and the photographs in which the Earth appears covered of clouds (now from space debris, perhaps?) so that there is no doubt about the planet’s surroundings.
In addition to the relics and replicas, the exhibition has interactive rooms that should be a hit with children. In one, a rocket launch is projected onto a 360-degree screen. The ground shakes when the propulsion is activated. In another, there is a display of a 3D lunar adventure. The seats move during the session. There is also a space that simulates a command room with an original control table, as well as the clock used in countdowns.
Large panels highlight important snippets of the history of NASA programs. The most striking of them recalls black scientists Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — their stories were recently portrayed in Theodore Melfi’s movie “Stars Beyond Time”. They had to fight racial segregation and structural machismo to simply be able to work. Without their work—and that of other women like Kitty O’Brien Joyner, Pearl Young, and Margaret Hamilton— no man would have stepped on the moon.
NASA’s new program, named after a goddess, Artemis, no wonder, intends to take the first woman to the Moon in 2024. The next projects are the subject of a complementary exhibition: “Futuro Espacial”, on display at Farol Santander until the 5th of December, including the race to Mars, in a new geopolitical contest for space exploration — with the multiple meanings that the verb explore fits.
“Mars is not the best place to raise your children”, recalls Elton John in his 1972 song “Rocket Man”, in partnership with Bernie Taupin, in the video shown at the beginning of the exhibition “Space Adventure”, with scenes from the Apollo missions .
Meanwhile, a plaque left on the moon’s ground in 1969 insists on warning: “Here men on planet Earth have set foot on the moon for the first time.