We have lift-off, NASA – A Human Adventure opens today

19 11 2016

Space exploration, fuelled by the cold war rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, made significant progress in the 1950s and 1960s. As a child of the 1960s, I was caught up in its excitement of it and especially of its most significant outcome – the landing of the first man on the moon in July 1969. The space programmes that led to the landing had itself generated huge interest during the decade. It was a space exploration flavoured decade in many ways and I took great satisfaction in rocket shaped ice-lollies, ice-cream packed in a Mercury spacecraft inspired container and on getting my hands on moon-landing inspired action transfer sets. For a child it seemed a most exciting of times; times that certainly came back to me visiting a preview of NASA – A Human Adventure, which opens today (19 November 2016) at the ArtScience Museum.

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A Mercury Spacecraft, the first US manned spacecraft.

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The exhibition, which is arranged around five galleries, takes visitors into a fascinating journey through space exploration and starts with the dreams humankind had long had of venturing into the unknown. There is an amazing collection of over 200 artefacts on display, several of which have flown in space, connected with both the Soviet and the NASA efforts. There also is get a chance to get up close to several training modules and full or large scale reconstructions of space craft including one of the Space Shuttle’s front section in which the flight deck and the mid-deck – where the crew eats, sleeps and works, complete with a vacuum toilet.

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The first gallery – which tells us all about the Dreamers.

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A re-creation of the Space Shuttle’s Flight Deck.

The Space Race, prompted by the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the US, is well documented in the second gallery, Go Fever. The intense rivalry provided much impetus for the rapid progress made by both countries in  space exploration and resulted in the first manned flights and the eventual moon landing. A model of Sputnik, the first satellite, which started the Space Race in earnest is on display. The early lead that the Soviets took is also seen in several rarely seen Soviet space artefacts and in a remembrance of the first human in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

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A model of Sputnik – the very first artificial satellite, launched by the Soviet Union. The reflection on it is that of Go Fever, the second gallery.

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The Soviet Space programme put the first man in Space – Yuri Gagarin, who is remembered in Go Fever.

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Soviet space programme artefacts – including a briefcase carried by Yuri Gagarin into space.

The exhibition has three other galleries, Pioneers, Endurance and Innovation – tracing the evolution of rocket technology, how the challenges of space travel were overcome and how ground breaking technologies have been created through the programme. There is also a rather interesting art installation, The Indonesia Space Science Society by Indonesian artist, Venzha Christ that includes a 3 metre sculpture and invites visitors to listen to space.

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A scale-model of the very long Saturn V rocket.

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The Jupiter nose cone – launched into space and recovered from the sea – the experimental nose cone was a crucial step in development of re-entry vehicles – necessary for manned space flights.

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Titan I LR-87 rocket engine.

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The installation by Venzha Christ.

A highlight of the exhibition is the G-Force Astronaut Trainer ride, which simulates the flight of the 1961 Liberty Bell 7 with forces of up to 2G. The ride takes up to four and costs $6 on weekdays (Mondays to Thursdays) and $9 during the weekends.

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The G-Force Astronaut Trainer Ride.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the ArtScience Museum is also running the Art and Science of Space season. Several programmes are lined up including an Insights Tour during the opening weekend, given by Jukka Nurminen – an avid aeronautics enthusiast and the producer and curator of the exhibition. Two sessions will be held at 11.30am  lasting an hour on 19 and 20 Nov, which will be complimentary to ticket holders but limited to 25 per session (stickers will be given out 5 minutes before the tour begins). There are also public guided tours on 25 Nov at 3-4pm and on 27 Nov at 11.30am-12.30pm. A series of workshops will also be held. The exhibition runs until 19 March 2017 and more information on it, its programmes and ticketing can be found at the exhibition’s website.

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Jukka Nurminen, Producer and Curator of the exhibition.


More exhibits:

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Spacesuits.

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A Soviet lunar vehicle.

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Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle.

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Moon rock collection case, bags, a glove and a boot.

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An Apollo survival kit.

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Command compartment of a Gemini Spacecraft.

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A command module.

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Apollo Command Module.

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Space Shuttle front section.

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An actual unused leg for the Apollo lunar landing module

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Film shot by Apollo astronauts.

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A Hasselblad camera of the type used for lunar operations.

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TV camera of type used for lunar operations.

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Lithium hydroxide canister for removing carbon dioxide. This featured in the Apollo 13 near tragedy that left the Command Module with limited electricity supply. To save power in the Command Module that was crucial for reentry, the Lunar Module was kept attached as a “lifeboat”. The Lunar Module did not have sufficient LiOH canisters and ground engineers very quickly found a way make join the rectangular canisters from the Command Module to the cylindrical canisters of the Lunar Module.

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An flight computer – which weighed about 100 kg.

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A photograph of the Apollo Lunar Module.

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A replica of the module with the triangular window seen in the photograph above.

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An actual Command Module parachute for descent back to earth – notice the burns from reentry on it.

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A heavily built Command Module front hatch.

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Models of Hubble and the ISS.

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One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind

26 08 2012

Dominating the news this morning is the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, yesterday. Him taking that first step on the moon, which in his own words uttered during the momentous occasion, was “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, is certainly one of the twentieth century’s iconic moments – one I remember watching on the television as a boy of four going on five. Thank you for taking that step on behalf of mankind Mr Armstrong … may you rest in peace.

NASA photo of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon.

NASA footage of the historic first steps on the moon





The Man on the Moon, 20-21 July 1969

11 07 2009

I was in kindergarten at the end of a decade of both hope and despair. It had been a traumatic decade for Singapore, with its merger with the Federation of Malay States and its subsequent independence, racially motivated disturbances and the news of the intended pull out of British forces to cope with – not that I was old enough to remember any of that.

The world itself had its fair share of earth moving events – the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, Prague Spring, the student riots in France, the leap at altitude by Bob Beamon that stood as a long jump world record for 23 years, the Cultural Revolution in China, and much closer to home, the war in Indochina.

There were events that I would remember on a personal level: moving to Toa Payoh; the birth of my sister; our first telephone; watching my hero Vic Morrow on Combat – the theme music of which still rings in my head. What was possibly the event that caught my imagination was man setting foot on the moon on 21 July 1969 (the actual landing was on 20 July 1969 US time). I recall the sense of anticipation which gripped my family, my father in particular in the days leading up to the launching of Apollo 11 and to the eventual “one small step for man”.  For weeks after, many of my friends in kindergarten and I were caught up in the excitement of the event. Having watched the delayed footage on the evening newsreel on TV,  we lived the moment out in the games that we played; building make believe rockets, marked out on the floor with building blocks … counting down the moment to blast off. For maybe a half year after, the heroes I worshipped were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Capturing the Historic Moment Down Under

Capturing the Historic Moment Down Under

View from Eugene Oregon

View from Eugene Oregon

Some clips related to Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon:

http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/a11/a11v_1092338.mpg
http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/ktclips/ap11_armstrong.mpg
http://161.115.184.211/teague/apollo/audio/ap11_17_One_Small_Step.mp3