SCIENCE

Neil Armstrong's Secret Bag Of Apollo 11 Mementos Found In A Closet

02/09/2015 11:12 am ET | Updated Feb 11, 2015
NASA/Buzz Aldrin

It turns out Neil Armstrong had a secret stash of moon mementos.

Space historians this week announced the unexpected discovery of several items Neil Armstrong brought back to Earth following the historic Apollo 11 mission, during which he took the first step on the moon.

The astronaut's widow reportedly found the artifacts in a closet after her husband's death in 2012.

"I received an email from Carol Armstrong that she had located in one of Neil’s closets a white cloth bag filled with assorted small items that looked like they may have come from a spacecraft," Dr. Allan Needell, a curator in the space history department at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C., wrote in a blog posted Feb. 6 on the museum's website. "Needless to say, for a curator of a collection of space artifacts, it is hard to imagine anything more exciting."

(Story continues below.)

Astronauts refer to the bag as a McDivitt Purse -- it was used for temporary storage by lunar module crews. The experts behind NASA's Apollo Lunar Surface Journal (ALSJ) website confirmed "with almost complete certainty" that the items found in the bag were used on Apollo 11, writing that the artifacts are "of priceless historic value."

Among the items found in the bag were a waist tether, power cables, and the historic camera that was mounted in a lunar module window, which recorded Armstrong taking his "one small step" on the moon's surface on July 20, 1969 (scroll down for photos).

"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 wrote on the museum blog.

The purse and its contents are on loan to the museum.

  • 1. Temporary Stowage Bag (aka 'Purse')
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    Mission photograph shows Buzz Aldrin holding the bag during a lunar module inspection at about 55 hours 41 minutes into the Apollo 11 mission on the way out to the Moon.
  • 2. DAC Power Cable
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    This photo was taken during the initial lunar module inspection during the trip out from Earth. The orange-colored electrical cable is connected to the bottom surface near the back.
  • 3-4. Utility Lights
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    A utility light with a power cable.
  • 5-6. Utility Bracket Assembly
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    Utility bracket assemblies, which were used in conjunction with the utility lights.
  • 7. Crewman Optical Alignment Sight (COAS)
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    This Crewman Optical Alignment Sight (COAS), which was installed above Armstrong's window, provided the commander with gross range cues and closing rate cues during the docking maneuver.
  • 8. Filter
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
  • 9. Light Bulb Assembly (Spare for COAS)
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    COAS light bulb assembly (spare). An identical assembly was on the end of the COAS closest to the cabin overhead. This spare was stowed in the Right-Hand-Side Stowage Compartment (RHSSC) next to Buzz's flight station.
  • Waist Tether
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    There were two waist tethers (also known as EVA tethers) in the lunar module's LEC-Waist Tether Kit. This one was returned to Earth. The other, presumably, was left behind in the lunar module ascent stage.
  • 11. Helmet Tie Down Straps
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    Helmet Tie-down Straps. For launch from Cape Canaveral, these were stowed in the Right Hand Side Stowage Compartment (RHSSC) next to the lunar module's flight station.
  • 12. Data Acquisition Camera (16-mm movie)
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    This camera was mounted on brackets at either of two locations for views through the lunar module's window of the final approach to landing, Neil's climb down the ladder, EVA activities in the camera field-of-view, and the ascent.
  • 13. Lens Shade
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
  • 14. Eyeguard Assembly
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
  • 15. Mirror
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    Detail from a photo showing a training mirror mounted over the left side of a window in a lunar module simulator. During the flight out from Earth, the mirror was stowed under the panels to the right of the flight station.
  • 16. Emergency Wrench
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
  • 17. Waste Management Cover
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
  • 18. Netting
    NASA/Apollo Lunar Surface Journal
    Netting was placed in various locations in the LM cabin to protect pipes, conduits, and other gear on the rear walls from flying objects.

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