Armstrong's Moon Mementos Found In Closet

NASA. A photograph of the raising of the American flag on the moon taken with the camera found in Neil Armstrong's closet

A collection of items planned to be left behind by the Apollo 11 mission have been found by Neil Armstrong's widow while clearing out an old closet. Among them is the camera that recorded some of the mission's most crucial moments, including the famous moon landing. The items have now been donated to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, who unsurprisingly are rather pleased to have received them.

According to transcripts of the Apollo mission, Armstrong—upon rejoining Michael Collins in lunar orbit—referred to a stowage bag known as a McDivitt purse saying, “You know, that – that one's just a bunch of trash that we want to take back – LM [lunar module] parts, odds and ends, and it won't stay closed by itself. We'll have to figure something out for it.” The purse was named after Apollo 9 Commander James McDivitt, who proposed the need for a place to temporarily stow items that would be too time consuming to fix in place, but couldn't be safely left to float around the spacecraft in zero gravity.

In the end, the “something” seems to have been stashing the purse in the back of a closet and forgetting about it. Carol Armstrong found the bag—including the various items inside—while clearing out part of the family home after Neil Armstrong's death in 2012.

Credit: Carol Armstrong. The photograph Carol Armstrong sent to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which reveals the content of the bag she found.

Under the mission's plans, items such as these were to be left on the Eagle module, and would have been destroyed when the Eagle crashed into the moon after having carried Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to their rendezvous with Collins.

"Needless to say, for a curator of a collection of space artifacts, it is hard to imagine anything more exciting," said Allan Needell on the museum's blog. Needell has since confirmed that the items were almost certainly those Armstrong took to the moon and back.

Probably the most significant of the items was the 16mm Data Acquisition Camera that had been mounted on the Eagle lunar module to record the Eagle's touchdown, Armstrong's descent to the surface and the famous “one small step.”

Credit: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The camera that recorded the "one small step."

A waist tether, intended for use if the lunar module and command module failed to reconnect correctly and the astronauts were forced to spacewalk between them, was included in the bag. Armstrong also used the tether to support his legs while he rested on the ascent engine cover during his only break on the moon.

Nine smaller items including a mirror, emergency wrench and lens shade were also found. 

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