The year 2017 marks a major milestone in crewed spaceflight. It's the year that Apollo 1, the first mission with people on board, was supposed to make its journey into space. While mission preparations ended with a deadly fire that killed three astronauts on Jan. 27, 1967, they made officials put a new emphasis on safety and crew preparedness that eventually landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin onto the lunar surface two year later.
So, kicking off with 50th anniversary of the dawn of the Apollo era this month, there will be a series of other "50ths" over the coming years: Apollo 1 (in January), Apollo 8's trip to the moon (December 2018), Apollo 11's journey to the lunar surface (July 2019), Apollo 13's "successful failure" (April 2020) and the last lunar landing, Apollo 17 (December 2022). These are big dates to be sure, but how relevant are these distant anniversaries to today's twentysomethings, teenagers and children? This is a question that museums are already starting to ponder as they introduce new exhibits and re-invigorate older ones.
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For example, the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kans. (near Wichita) has a temporary exhibit going up in January to mark the anniversary of Apollo 1. Courtesy of private collector Ray Katz, artifacts on display include an emergency egress plan, a hat from a pad worker on site the day of the tragedy and a schematic book that belonged to backup astronaut Walt Cunningham (who later flew on Apollo 7.)
Collections manager Shannon Wetzel added that appealing to younger generations is something "that all museums struggle with," but the museum is taking some steps. The museum has the Apollo 13 command module on display, loaned from the Smithsonian. An explosion crippled the spacecraft on its way to the moon in April 1970 and prevented a landing, but the crew was safely returned to Earth. Nevertheless, the mission was seen by some as a failure because it didn't achieve its prime objective, she said.