This is opening week for an exhibition that has consumed a lot of our attention in the last two years. Suited for Space debuts at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry on April 6, 2011.
After studying manuscripts and documents, after talking at length to curators and engineers, you'd think we learned everything there was to know about spacesuits as well as the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.
We've discovered that these topics are so rich, it would take a lifetime to consume all the facts, some of which are constantly evolving as new information is unearthed and reexamined. Indeed, even those things that have been endlessly scutinized can always reveal something unexpected.
One of the most iconic images in the exhibition is the classic shot of Buzz Aldrin's bootprint on the lunar surface. No doubt you've seen this one hundreds of times, but according to NASA's Bill Barry, there's much more to this 1969 photograph: "The bootprint is Buzz Aldrin’s right boot. He had the Hasselblad camera at the time, and one of his checklist tasks was to photograph a bootprint as a part of the study of the nature of the lunar surface and the effects of pressure on the surface," Barry explained.
Even better, check out this excerpt from NASA's Apollo Lunar Surface Journal about the sequence of events surrounding Buzz's famous bootprint:
110:25:09: Aldrin (at the MESA): In general, time spent in the shadow doesn't seem to have any (garbled) thermal effects. (garbled) feel inside the suit. There is a difference, of course, in the (garbled) radiation and the helmet. So I think there's a tendency to feel a little cooler in the shadow than we feel out in the Sun. (Pause)
At about 110:25:17 in the 16-mm film, the shadow of the Hasselblad lens appears at the left edge, followed soon thereafter by Buzz. He has the camera in his right hand. He disappears from the 16-mm frame to the left, again, at about 110:25:49. At this point, he probably takes AS11-40- 5876, which shows an undisturbed patch of soil. At about 110:26:05, his right leg comes into view as he plants his right boot deliberately on the pristine patch. A frame from the 16-mm film taken at about 110:26:08 shows him with his leg extended and his boot planted. He then lifts his foot and backs out of the 16-mm field-of-view and takes two "after" pictures of the bootprint: 5877 and 5878. He took the second of these from slightly farther away and got better focus.
At about 110:27:00, Buzz steps back into view at the left and plants his boot just beyond the previous bootprint. In a frame from the 16-mm film taken at about 110:27:02, the first bootprint in just behind Buzz's boot. He now takes two pictures of his boot and the new print: 5879 and 5880. The 5-cm rock next to Buzz's boot in the Hasselblad images can be picked out in the 16-mm frame.
Suited for Space will be on tour for several years and includes a complementary Facebook page. The national tour of Suited for Space is generously sponsored by DuPont.