Explore the Apollo 11 Command Module

The Smithsonian’s 3D model of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia is complete and ready to explore with a click of a mouse. The incredibly close quarters were home to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins during the first manned lunar landing voyage from the launch of the Saturn V rocket on July 16th, 1969, until splashdown on July 24th. (Armstrong and Aldrin spent a day or so on the Lunar Module Eagle.)

The creation of the model was challenging thanks to the reflective aluminium surfaces and the intricacies of the interior dashboard. All the buttons, toggles and gizmos put the laser scanners through their paces, so much so that the technology used by the institution to scan other objects in its collection couldn’t quite cut it. The Smithsonian partnered with Autodesk Inc. whose experts created custom scanning equipment and whose advanced software converted the scan data into a model that is pretty damn amazing, to my civilian eye.

Now you can turn around in the cramped space, examining every detail in high resolution. You couldn’t get anywhere near that close at the National Air and Space Museum. You can’t see inside the Command Module at all, in fact. Click the quote bubble icon on the top left of the screen to get a diagram and annotations about the compartment. If you also click on the marker icon (the one that looks like a Ouija paddle), labels will pop up throughout the space. Click on the labels to get more details. The globe icon at the top gives you an excellent guided tour through the labeled areas. That was my favorite because of how smoothly it moves from stage to stage.

The Smithsonian has also made 3D print ready files available for download should you wish to print up a your own miniature Apollo 11 Command Module, and virtual reality renders for viewing with VR goggles. They have also some of the raw data available in medium resolution. They’re working on getting the highest resolution models available.

This video gives an overview of the complex laser scanning process of the Command Module.

3 thoughts on “Explore the Apollo 11 Command Module

  1. I was A soldier stationed in Honolulu Hawaii. One of my friends, a Marine, came over one day and asked me to go to Pearl Harbor with him. We got there and took the ferry over to Ford Island and walked around a bit until we passed the end of one of the hangers. There sat Apollo 10 on some sort of stand. No guards, no ropes or “keep away” signs, not even other people. My buddy knew the drill and had an empty pill bottle which he filled with flakes of the heat shield. I had no bottle so carefully put some flakes in my shirt pocket. Even though I was an Army photographer I didn’t have a camera with me so that moment with history is lost forever.
    Alas, the remains of the heat shield went down the washer drain.,

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