Mission Moon

Explore the Adler Planetarium's 'Mission Moon' exhibition!

What You Will Learn

Included With General Admission

Mission Moon invites you to experience America’s first steps into space through the eyes of NASA’s Captain James A. Lovell Jr. and his family.

You’ll find out how the United States became the first nation to put a man on the Moon, what it’s really like to be an astronaut, and why it takes a team to explore uncharted worlds.

Captain Lovell’s story is full of twists and turns, setbacks and successes. It’s the story of a national hero, but it’s also the story of a kid from Juneau, Wisconsin, who loved rockets. It’s the story of a husband and father whose supportive family helped him become extraordinary.

[Your Mission: Build your own rocket!]

We chose to go to the Moon.

President John F. Kennedy put the human race on a fast track to the Moon in his 1961 address to Congress: “No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space,” he said. The following year, Captain Lovell got a phone call that changed his life forever: NASA, which had once rejected him, was now inviting him to astronaut training.

Where will we choose to go next?

The next frontier could be a giant asteroid or a distant but familiar planet. For the next generation of space explorers, NASA is drafting plans to send a four-person mission to Mars by 2030.

Blasting off—then and now

An astronaut’s life may seem glamorous, but it’s hard work, too! Humans did not evolve in the cold dark vacuum of space, so it takes a lot of clever engineering to keep us alive out there.

Captain Lovell spent nearly four days inside the Gemini XII spacecraft with Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin in 1966. In the craft , which was about the size of a cockpit in a small airplane, they had to breathe, eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. With no privacy, a spacecraft to pilot, and a list of scientific objectives to achieve each day, the two men persevered and the mission was a success.

In December 2014, NASA conducted a successful test of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle—the spacecraft that may bring the first people to Mars.

[Your Mission: Explore the inside of the Gemini XII spacecraft !]

One giant leap

Each of NASA’s Apollo missions built on the successes and learned from the failures of the ones before it: Apollo 8, which brought a three-person crew—including Captain Lovell—safely around the Moon and back, paved the way for Apollos 9 and 10, which completed crucial tests of the Lunar Module and the mission itinerary. By the time Apollo 11’s astronauts became the first people to walk on the Moon, NASA had proven that the mission could succeed.

But even the most carefully tested systems can fail. An exploding oxygen tank nearly destroyed the Apollo 13 spacecraft and everyone aboard: Captain Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. With the whole world watching, the engineers at Mission Control worked with the crew to find a creative solution that saved their lives—a carbon dioxide scrubber made of stray materials like the cover of a notebook.

[Your Mission: Take the Adler’s Apollo XIII Engineering Challenge!]

The next great adventure

At age 12, Captain Lovell was already dreaming of rockets and the open sky. But he could not have known how very far from his desk those dreams would take him.

Every great explorer was once a curious child. What does the future hold for today’s young explorers? Perhaps they will take the first steps on Mars in the coming decades, or solve a dangerous problem and help a mission succeed. Or perhaps they will think bigger and create a future no one living today can even imagine. After all, when Captain Lovell was their age, there was no such thing as an astronaut.

[Your Mission: Dream big! (or something to this effect? I just thought we should have a fourth mission to be consistent with the others)]

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