Science Museum Spaceship Illustration

Exploring Space – Spaceships

Read our Space curator Doug’s second guest post where he talks about the second stage of our Space trail and discusses his favourite object in the Museum.

Science Museum Spaceship Illustration

One of my favourite objects in the Museum? The Apollo 10 command module, of course – what else could the space curator say? Its current display rather underplays its remarkable story: what it did, how it did it, why it is the shape it is and why it is that strange colour of cold tea.

Well, first things first: it is a REAL spaceship and – yes – it has actually been in space. In fact it has visited another world – our Moon. This isn’t a model or a replica – it’s the real thing. In May 1969 it carried three men – Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan and John Young – all the way to the Moon and back. When they were there the crew did everything but land – Apollo 10 was the dress rehearsal for the landing mission of Apollo 11, two months later.

The Apollo 10 command module (call sign Charlie Brown) was attached to a cylindrical service module, full of supplies and systems, and then docked to the lunar lander or module (call sign Snoopy).

All had been launched in the titanic Saturn V rocket, as tall as St Paul’s Cathedral in London and as powerful as a small atomic bomb. In lunar orbit Stafford and Cernan climbed through the docking hatch and into the lunar module, leaving Young behind in Charlie Brown. They flew down close to the Moon’s surface and then back up to rejoin Young having successfully tested the vital computing and radar systems.

The three then ditched Snoopy and the service module before hurtling back to Earth at 24,791 miles per hour (an all-time record). So, this museum object has many, many stories to tell … and we haven’t even begun to explain who built it, why it looks the way it did and how it worked. Another time…

Don’t miss Doug’s next post where he talks about the third part of our space trail Andromeda. You can find out more about our space trail and if you enter our competition you could win a trip to Paris. Good luck!

6 thoughts on “Exploring Space – Spaceships

  1. oliver green

    I’ve always thought this was one of the most amazing items in the Science Museum, but like so many of the important REAL objects in the museum it is poorly displayed and most people probably miss it completely or don’t realise its significance. Time to revamp your tired old space gallery and tell the exciting story of space exploration properly, with the key objects and intrepid astronauts given the exhibition they deserve. Somehow the museum has managed to make this great story really dull and boring.

    1. Doug Millard

      Dear Oliver – thanks for the comments. Apollo 10 is in our Making the Moden World Gallery, together with 2.5k other significant objects from across the Museum’s collections. The Gallery design (2000) quite deliberately set out to make the objects stand out with minimal interpretative techniques added. The adjacent Exploring Space Gallery has had several changes in the last few months and years, most recently the addition of a lunar sample exhibit in July, Yuri Gagarin displays in April and a spectacular satellite and spacecraft data projection globe at the end of 2010. There is a great deal more we would like to do, though!

      1. Doug Millard

        … one other thing: this Friday (August 19th) we are opening up the Apollo 10 spacecraft so people can see inside!

  2. Pat

    Just wanted to say I made the trip to see the module and I was thrilled with the fantastic way it was displayed – just one or two people at a time invited up from the queue to see, while the curator explained exactly what you were looking at. I was queueing for about 45 mins but made friends with the man next to me, and as there were displays of space food and enthusiastic explainers on hand it was never boring. The Module its-self was genuinely awe inspiring, the cramped conditions for the astronauts and the rows of instruments, the tiny portholes and the very uncomfortable looking seating were all fascinating. I even had my photo taken next to it, as well as being allowed to photograph the interior from every angle. My best museum experience ever, ban none. Thank you!


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