You see those gloves? Those gloves grasped the lunar ladder as Neil Armstrong hopped down to the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969. Tinged with blue silicon rubber fingertips to help Armstrong feel his way, those gloves carried experiments, and tools, and touched Moon dust. They were the first gloves used while walking on the Moon.
They’ve been in storage for more than a decade. But right now — for at least the next two weeks — they are sitting in a special display case at the Smithsonian’s airport annex in Washington. The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is showing them to the public in honour of Armstrong, who died at the age of 82 on Aug. 25.
Oh yeah, and you can also check out the helmet that Neil Armstrong used as he described the lunar surface to millions of awe-struck listeners on live television. (The gold-plated visor he used on the surface is not being lowered again due to concerns about damaging it, but it’s inside the helmet.) No big deal.
Yes, the surface is fine and powdery. I can kick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers, like powdered charcoal, to the sole and sides of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe an eighth of an inch, but I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine, sandy particles.
This is probably your last chance to catch these artifacts before at least 2017. Armstrong’s spacesuit has been in storage since 2001 in a special temperature and humidity-controlled facility, to protect it from damage. The museum has tentative plans to display it again when it renovates the Apollo gallery in the main museum building on the Washington Mall. That said, his crewmate Buzz Aldrin’s spacesuit is on display there right now.
Photos by Dane Penland, courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.