Apollo Astronaut Brings Space to Chicago Planetarium

Apollo Astronaut Brings Space to Chicago Planetarium
Gemini and Apollo astronaut James Lovell. (Image credit: Adler Planetarium.)

Gemini and Apollo astronaut James A.Lovell has announced he will consolidate his personal collection of NASAmemorabilia and contribute it to the Alder Planetarium & Astronomy Museumin Chicago, IL. His donation, as well arrangements for the National Air andSpace Museum to loan one of his spacecraft to the museum for display, is timedto coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Adler, a celebration chaired byLovell.

"The Adler inspires young andold alike to learn about space science which contributes to our nationalidentity as a science and technology leader," Lovell said while visitingthe museum last week. "I can't imagine a better use of my collection thanin this noble effort."

Lovell's collection includesdocuments, memorabilia and personal space artifacts. It is presently widelydisplayed in a number of museums, in his home and at his and his son'srestaurant, Lovells of Lake Forest, in Illinois.

Lovell's announcement coincided withthe anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission. On April 13, 1970, Lovell and hiscrew successfully modified the Apollo 13 lunar module into an effectivelifeboat when its oxygen system failed. Their resourcefulness helped returnthem safely to Earth.

Prior to Apollo 13, Lovell pilotedthe first rendezvous of two manned spacecraft in 1965, and the last of theGemini flights that perfected spacewalking in 1966. He then served as navigatorfor the epic six-day journey of Apollo 8, man's maiden voyage to the Moon.Until he was surpassed by Skylab astronauts, Lovell held the record for mostAmerican hours in space: 29.8 days (715 hours and 5 minutes).

Adler President Paul H. Knappenberger Jr. has named Lovell the honorary chairman ofthe museum's year-long 75th anniversary celebration, which begins on May 12.

"[Lovell] recalls the thrillingearly moments of human space exploration, a phenomenon never anticipated whenChicago's famous planetarium was founded by Max Adler in 1930," said Knappenberger. "He also encourages us to look forwardand inspire the next generation of explorers."

The museum's anniversary plansinclude a new focus on human space exploration. As part of that effort, theAdler has reached an agreement with the Smithsonian National Air and SpaceMuseum to exhibit Gemini 12 on a long- term basis. The spacecraft, one of fourLovell flew during his time as an astronaut, is presently at NASA's GoddardSpace Flight Center. At Lovell's request, it was approved for relocation from Marylandto the Adler.

The Gemini 12 capsule will be thecenterpiece of a new interactive exhibition about America's space program to beunveiled in 2006. As part of the loan agreement, the Adler will help theSmithsonian conserve the object, a process that will require many months. Whenthe work is completed, the newly restored Gemini 12 spacecraft will bedisplayed in a specially-designed exhibition case to prevent additional erosionof its facade and components.

"It is an honor for a Chicagoinstitution to be asked to display and assist in preserving a national treasurelike the Gemini 12 capsule," said President Knappenberger.

To recognize Lovell's achievements,the Adler has also commissioned a life-like seven-foot sculpture. In late June2005, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley will dedicate the sculpture in the Adler'srestored Rainbow Lobby. The sculpture is intended to commemorate man's quest toexplore beyond the Earth and will feature one of Lovell's most famous quotes:"I have seen the Earth as it truly is ...a grand oasis in the vastness ofspace."

Copyright 2005 collectSPACE.com. All rights reserved.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.