With “First Man” earning rave reviews, it's sure to spark a renewed interest in Neil Armstrong's one giant leap for mankind, especially with the 50th anniversary of the moon landings arriving in 2019. Not surprisingly, the Washington area is home to numerous NASA-related artifacts and multiple pieces of the moon. Here's where you can see them:
National Air and Space Museum: “First Man,” which stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, opens today in Air and Space's Imax theaters on the Mall and at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles. At 10:30 a.m. today, the D.C. museum hosts the unveiling of a new U.S. Mint coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions. Astronaut Walt Cunningham, who piloted Apollo 7, is the guest speaker.
Those hoping to pair a screening of “First Man” with a closer look at the Apollo 11 command module will be disappointed: Columbia is currently on view in Pittsburgh as part of the touring “Destination Moon” exhibition. Another important artifact from the mission, Armstrong's spacesuit, is currently being restored by Smithsonian conservationists, with the hope that it can go back on view next year.
But even without those two items, the museum has a sizable number of objects related to Apollo 11 in its second-floor “Apollo to the Moon” gallery, which closes for an extended renovation on Dec. 3 and is scheduled to reopen on January 2022. (In other words, if you haven't visited recently, do it now.) The Apollo Lunar Module LM-2, a test version of the craft that carried astronauts from lunar orbit to the moon's surface and back, remains on display in the Milestones of Flight Hall, along with the touchable moon rock (brought back by the crew of Apollo 17).
Washington National Cathedral: Five years after the first moonwalk, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin presented Washington National Cathedral with a seven-gram sliver of basalt rock, collected during their historic mission. The rock, sealed in a nitrogen-filled capsule, sits at the heart of a colorful custom-made stained glass window in the south transept.
Goddard Space Flight Center: NASA's oldest space flight facility is home to an interesting visitors center and museum, and its outdoor “Rocket Garden” includes a collection of full-size rockets and hardware for visitors to explore. The star is what NASA calls “a genuine nonflying 'boilerplate' mock-up” of the Apollo crew capsule, which was used for training. Inside the museum, visitors can climb inside a Gemini capsule — Armstrong was the commander of Gemini 8, a precursor to the Apollo program — and touch a piece of moon rock that was brought back to Earth by the crew of Apollo 14.
On Oct. 20, Goddard will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. for International Observe the Moon Night, which includes hands-on family activities, speakers sharing memories of moon landings and special telescopes for observing the night sky. Admission is free, and no RSVP is required.