Last week Sheri Potts’ second-grade class from South Pines Elementary was the first group to see the Valley Heritage Museum’s new Apollo 11 exhibit. The fact that the exhibit wasn’t quite done at the time didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the students.
The exhibit is tucked into a darkened corner with tiny lights that represent stars. Pictures of the planets revolve overhead. “I think that was Saturn,” said one boy as the distinctive orb swirled by.
“When you come in here, there’s just the sense that you’re in space,” said museum director Jayne Singleton.
The exhibit includes a mock-up of the lunar module on a fake moon surface. A model of the rocket that lifted the module into space sits in the corner below pictures and biographies of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. Students read information off the wall that tells them Apollo 11 weighed 6,612,000 pounds and it’s maximum speed was 250,387 miles per hour.
Kids seemed enthralled by a replica of the plaque that was placed on the moon’s surface, touching it and tracing the letters as they read. “It’s very cool,” said student Taylor Jennings. “I’m interested in NASA. My dream is to actually go up into space and see what’s it’s like up there. I really want to go there.”
The students also gravitated toward a mission control module created by museum volunteers, flipping switches and pushing buttons as they put old-fashioned microphone headsets on. Two televisions set into the panel played videos of the Apollo 11 launch and Armstrong walking on the moon. Binders resting on top of the module have copies of some of the mission plans that visitors can flip through.
It was the student’s third museum of the day. They had visited the Museum of Arts and Culture and Campbell House before stopping in at the Valley Museum, said Potts. The students are learning about the history of the area in class and were excited to see and touch historical artifacts. “They love it,” said Potts. “You don’t know if they’ll find it interesting.”
The exhibit will be finished in April when artifacts arrive from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Singleton is expecting to get moon rocks, a helmet used in the mission and some “space food.” A container of Tang, which was famous as the drink of choice for the astronauts, already sits in a display case, but Singleton notes that it’s a modern container and not the classic glass bottle that was in use at the time. “We’ve got a good start here,” she said.
During their visit, the kids also examined exhibits on historic gas stations, irrigation in the Valley, KZUN radio, early telephone systems and other tidbits from Spokane Valley’s past.
“This is cool,” said Potts. “It’s my first time here. I love it.”