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After Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon, passed away, it was discovered that he had left behind a wealth of artifacts from the first landing. The astronaut traversed 240,000 miles through near space back in 1969 and collected hundreds of rock samples, which he brought back to Earth for scientists to analyze in order to see into the past of the solar system.
Armstrong passed away in 2012 after a life filled with rich memories. He left behind a legacy of adventure and space exploration that will lead the hearts and minds of people in future space travel. After his death, his family found a plethora of artifacts from his missions that have since been donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to spotlight an exhibit dedicated to the history of humankind’s first attempts at space exploration.
Located in a NASA archive is The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal (ALSJ). The journal is dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the findings and information regarding NASA’s missions to the moon. Within the body of the book, there is a section dedicated to a white bag that Armstrong’s wife, Carol Armstrong, found in his closet following his death.
The white cloth satchel was identified by NASA as a Temporary Stowage Bag, which is known as a McDivitt Purse by astronauts. The bag was originally fashioned to be attached inside the Lunar Module and is reminiscent of an old-time doctor’s bag. The McDivitt Purse contained a camera, light bulb assembly, tether, emergency wrench and other items used during the Apollo 11 mission.
The items discovered in Armstrong’s closet are an astounding find because they were launched on the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, also known as the Eagle. When Armstrong and his crew returned from the moon, they left behind the Eagle. NASA confirmed that the orbital decay of the module led to its destruction upon impact with the lunar surface.
Allan Needell, an artifact curator at the Smithsonian, stated that a team of experts studying the ALSJ were able to conclude that all of the items found in the white bag were from the Eagle. He said that this was an astounding and exciting discovery.
Transcripts from Armstrong’s mission talk about the bag. Therefore, NASA knew the bag and its contents were taken back to Earth upon the mission’s completion. In the notes, Armstrong referred to the contents as a bunch of trash that he and his crew wanted to take back with them. According to Needell, Armstrong never revealed the existence of the contents of the bag and no one in the 45 years since the mission has seen them.
The Smithsonian has opened an exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum called “Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extra-Vehicular Activity.” Currently, the Smithsonian is documenting the rest of the artifacts for public display. After decades of being in the closet of the infamous Armstrong, the Apollo 11 mission artifacts will be both a reminder of the first exploration of space and an inspiration to future generations.
By: Alex Lemieux
Picture: James Vaughan – Flickr License