Friday, June 26, 2009

Renovation of LM-2

The Lunar Module that is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum is undergoing renovation. (See this article in Smithsonian online.)

The Smithsonian houses LM-2, the second Lunar Module built by Grumman. It was originally intended to fly in space as an unmanned test vehicle. However, the flight of LM-1 on Apollo 5 was so successful that NASA determined it was not necessary to fly LM-2. LM-2 was used for "drop tests" on Earth, to see how much stress the vehicle could take in simulated landings. As I posted in a blog entry last year, my dad actually saw the LM-2 ascent stage wrapped in plastic at the Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston in August, 1969.

After the flight of Apollo 11, NASA donated LM-2 to the Smithsonian. It went on display at what was then the Air and Space Museum, in the Arts and Industries Building, in late 1970 or early 1971. Here's how the LM looked in its old housing, in a photo I took in June 1971 - certainly seeming to me to be a jarring juxtaposition of 1880's architecture and the height of modern technology.

As mentioned in my blog entry earlier this week, I did some research for a Smithsonian curator in May 1971. When I gave him the results of the research, I asked him, "Can you recommend me for a job?" That took him aback! Here I was, a teenager, asking for a job at the Smithsonian! He told me that the only positions they had were for volunteer tour guides, which of course is exactly what I wanted. He recommended me to the docent coordinator, even though I was several years younger than the usual requirements (rising high school seniors).

Shortly after I began working as a tour guide, a curator made some adjustments to LM-2 to improve its display. Part of his work involved cutting off a small strip of the Kapton foil, the aluminized Mylar that covered the descent stage. Several of the other docents and I got small pieces of that Kapton foil from him. I kept it for several years in the same frame as my photo of Neil Armstrong.

In the current renovation of LM-2, the Smithsonian is removing all of the original Kapton from the Lunar Module and replacing it with something that I assume is equivalent but in better shape. I'm happy to have my little piece of history as a souvenir of my working "up close and personal" with this Lunar Module!

No comments: