See Armstrong’s Hands and Eyes on the Moon

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.

11 Replies to “See Armstrong’s Hands and Eyes on the Moon”

      1. Exactly! Here’s some more information on Armstrong’s checklist as well as those of later missions:

        “Spacesuits carried various instructions; the left extravehicular gloves of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Aldrin, for example, bore sewn-on cloth checklists of lunar surface activities. In time, though, the increasing complexity of Apollo’s mission goals required separate ‘cuff checklists,’ small spiral-bound booklets affixed to the astronaut’s wrist and containing more exacting instructions and diagrams, separated by tab dividers.”

  1. I read somewhere those finger tips where actually rather thin, and could have potentially torn on sharp lunar rocks!!!
    It’d be nice if the museum developed a new storage for the suit which also allowed a window for visitors to see 24/7. Whats the point in protecting something if no one (including museum workers or NASA officials) are going to see it for more than a decade? Seems nuts to me.

Comments are closed.