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The long-lost Apollo 11 artifacts discovered in Neil Armstrong’s closet

These objects were stored in a temporary stowage bag (left) during Apollo 11. It was donated to the Museum by Armstrong's family. (Copyright, all rights reserved. Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum)

Neil Armstrong's widow, Carol, made quite the discovery. More than two years after Armstrong's death, Carol found a white cloth bag inside one of his closets that contained tools, hooks and a small camera.

Those items were aboard Apollo 11's lunar module, Eagle, the first manned vehicle to land on the moon, writes National Air and Space Museum curator Allan Needell. That camera recorded the moment that Armstrong took his first step on the moon and declared, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Needell and other curators visited Armstrong's home in November to review a few known items, and weeks later, Carol Armstrong e-mailed them about the discovery. "Needless to say, for a curator of a collection of space artifacts, it is hard to imagine anything more exciting," Needell writes.

Experts examining the items "were able to determine with almost complete certainty that all of the items were indeed from the Eagle," Needell writes. The instruments and the bag, known as a McDivitt Purse, were actually not supposed to come back to earth and rather stay in the Eagle, which the astronauts left behind. It's assumed the craft crashed into the moon's surface.

But the astronauts ended up bringing the bag back, and it appears intentionally so. The crew members reported to mission control that they were bringing "10 pounds of LM miscellaneous equipment," which Armstrong had earlier described to Michael Collins as "just a bunch of trash that we want to take back — LM parts, odds and ends, and it won’t stay closed by itself. We’ll have to figure something out for it."

"As far as we know, Neil has never discussed the existence of these items and no one else has seen them in the 45 years since he returned from the Moon," Needell writes.

The camera -- a 16mm data acquisition camera, to be precise -- captured Armstrong's July 20, 1969 walk on the moon, and is on display at a temporary National Air and Space Museum exhibit. Also on display: this waist tether, which supported Armstrong's feet during a rest period on the moon.

And here are the images captured by the camera:

Other items in the bag, including utility clamps and brackets, are detailed here, and could be displayed for the public in the future.


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