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Apollo 11 Command Module Foil

Apollo 11 Command Module Foil

This specimen is an actual, mission-flown fragment of kapton foil from the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. This material helped protect Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on their journey from Earth to the Moon and back. Salvaged after splashdown, this is a unique collectible from one of the greatest achievements in human history.

Above: Stylized image of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. This picture was taken on the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet after recovery of the craft on July 24, 1969. (Source: NASA S69-21294).

The Apollo program was conceived during President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration and later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" within a decade.

President Kennedy proposed this bold agenda during an address to the United States Congress on May 25th, 1961. On July 20, 1969, NASA fulfilled the mission when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon. This was the 11th flight of the Apollo program, and the success was broadcast live to the entire world.

Piloted by astronaut Michael Collins, Command Module Columbia orbited the Moon while fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the surface. The craft carried all three astronauts safely back to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.

The technological and scientific breakthroughs associated with the Apollo program were vast and long-lasting, but it is the human achievement that has held our imaginations for so many years.

Kapton foil was used on both the Lunar Module (LM) and the Command Module (CM). NASA Technical Note D-7564 "Apollo experience report: Thermal protection subsystem " (1974), describes the usage in this way:

"This low ratio is achieved with a pressure-sensitive Kapton polyimide tape that is coated with aluminum and oxidized silicon monoxide and that is applied over the entire external surface of the ablator. The installation of a boost protective cover over the conical portion of the CM prevents contamination of the thermal-control coating and the CM windows by aerodynamic heating during boost and by the tower jettison engine plume." (See Page 5, Fig. 4)

Source: Acquired at auction, this particular sample comes from the personal collection of retired NASA Production Control Engineer William R. Whipkey. Among space collectors, Whipkey is considered the most reliable source for kapton foil because he oversaw the decommissioning of the Command Modules from multiple missions. He was also responsible for making most of the commemorative displays for astronauts, VIPs, and others who worked on the Apollo Program.

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