Neil Armstrong Souvenirs Revealed


For one of the most famous people in the world, the first man on the moon was notoriously private and one of Neil Armstrong’s little secrets is now in the hands of the Smithsonian. Armstrong took one last step for posterity while evacuating the Eagle lander for the trip from moon orbit back to Earth. He tucked a number of small parts from the lunar module into his temporary stowage bag (TSB). His wife Carol found the bag while cleaning out one her late husband’s closets after he died in August of 2012. It’s thought to have been there since he returned home from the moon more than 45 years ago. While the bag itself would be cause for excitement in the museum world, Armstrong’s choice of artifacts has it buzzing.

Among the items is the data acquisition camera Armstrong used to stream those muddy black and white images of the moon’s surface passing under the LEM as he dodged boulders on the Sea of Tranquility and his iconic descent down the ladder to the moon’s surface. “The 16mm DAC, given the images that it captured, ranks as enormously important,” Allan Needell, Apollo curator at the National Air and Space Museum, told Armstrong also tucked the optical sight he used to help him steer the LEM to a safe landing. The camera and Armstrong’s waist tether are now on display at the museum and the intention is for all the items to be permanently donated by Armstrong’s family. Needell also stressed that the bag was duly included in the inventory of items transferred from the Eagle to the Columbia command module before it was allowed to fall to the moon’s surface. As for how it ended up in the closet, Needell said it wasn’t unusual for astronauts to keep non-reusable parts from their spacecraft. In September 2012, a month after Armstrong died, a law was passed that gave astronauts legal title to their mementos.