Fifty years ago this week, the unmanned Apollo 4 mission blasted off at Kennedy Space Center, and now the command module has found a new place in history at Infinity Science Center in Hancock County.
Infinity was closed in late October while the command module was moved into place in the Space Gallery on the second floor.
The capsule sat at Stratosphere at Stennis Space Center for the last five years, “not on public display,” said Mary Douglas, director of communications at Infinity.
“We didn’t have a way to get it into the building until now,” she said. A new door was installed and the 8,000-pound capsule, which was part of the first complete test of the Saturn V rocket and heat shields upon re-entry, was moved inside.
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It’s still in a protective wrapping until a plexiglass wall is built to keep it from being damaged by overeager children and from UV light.
“Hopefully we’ll get to open our present by Christmas,” Douglas said.
The capsule was unmanned so it doesn’t have seats, but once it’s in place, visitors will be able to see the instrument panel and its many dials and switches.
The 50th anniversary of Apollo 4 kicks off all of the 50th anniversary of NASA missions. It lifted off from Florida and lasted 8 hours and 36 minutes before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The capsule is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum.
Just beyond the Apollo 4 capsule is a window that looks out at the Saturn V rocket that was moved last year to Infinity from NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where it sat unused for decades after the Apollo program ended. Douglas said the rocket and command module weren’t on the same mission, yet positioned together people can envision the Saturn V rocket on the bottom of the three-stage rockets and the capsule on top.
“It’s almost like reuniting two old friends,” she said.
“By bringing the capsule to Infinity, our center is able to continue to tell the Apollo story to our 80,000 visitors each year and inspire future generations to dream big while reflecting upon the accomplishments of our past,” said Executive Director John Wilson.
Apollo 4 is one of several new exhibits at Infinity that were paid for with a portion of Mississippi’s settlement from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
An Electromagnetic Spectrum Touch Table lets visitors discover radio waves, microwaves and other rays. The new Sensors, Satellites and Selfies shows how a person looks in UV, regular and infrared rays and demonstrates how insects see the world.
The XSPHEREience Theater now has seats for 92, and the audience can sit on the edge of those seats experiencing a live demonstration of “How to Dress an Alligator,” or presentations on “Zap! An Electric Experience” and “Walking in Space.”
A new 3-D immersive theater is coming in the spring, and other new displays will be a deep ocean lab exhibit and a watershed exhibit, Douglas said.
New classes are being added to field trips so students can learn about sound and other things that will fascinate them and Homeschool Monday continues, with a presentation on physics Nov. 20 and the second science fair on Dec. 6.
A ribbon cutting ceremony for the Apollo 4 capsule will be coming at a later date, she said.