A new project at the Smithsonian museum has uncovered "graffitied" notes aboard Apollo 11, written by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins as they were blasted up to the Moon in July 1969.
Archivists from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. recently discovered the space-age relics, which include notes, workings out and figures written by the three astronauts. Among the writing was also a graffitied calendar, below, which the crew used to cross out the days as they went by, and a note on a locker saying “Smelly Waste!” – thought to be a cautionary reminder where they were storing their body waste.
Space historians are working with the Smithsonian to figure out when and why exactly each marking was made. The museum curators hope the find will give a fresh insight into the humanity behind the Moon landings and a new understanding of how these missions were conducted. Already, much of the scrawling suggests that parts of the mission relied on improvisation and many of the decisions were ad-libbed by the three-man crew.
The crew's calender, top right, and a faintly seen "Smelly waste!" note, center left. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum/John Gibbons
A portion of the notes believed to have been written by Michael Collins. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum/John Gibbons
So far, they’ve worked out that a section of the notes (above) were written by Michael Collins as he orbited the Moon alone, while Armstrong and Aldrin were exploring the lunar surface. It’s thought he was desperately trying to configure information from ground-control that would help him locate them and the Lunar Module Eagle on the Moon’s surface
“As curator of what is arguably one of the most iconic artifacts in the entire Smithsonian collection, it’s thrilling to know that we can still learn new things about Columbia,” says Allan Needell, curator of space history at the museum, in a statement. “This isn’t just a piece of machinery, it’s a living artifact.”
The National Air and Space Museum found the handwritten notes during their recent collaboration with the Smithsonian’s 3D Digitization Program. Together, they scoured the whole of the Apollo 11 spacecraft to gather data to create a detailed 3D model of it. The project hopes to bring space history into the digital age, with a virtual reality simulation of the full Apollo 11 command module Columbia, which people can experience online.
Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum/John Gibbons