A special exhibition of Spacecraft 107, the technical name of the command module for Apollo 11 - the mission that sent astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to walk on the moon, piloted by fellow crew member Michael Collins - has revealed a major glimpse into the lives of astronauts forgotten by NASA for decades.
Kept in a glass case at the National Air and Space Museum located in Washington, D.C., the capsule has remained unopened since it was placed there decades ago (it's unclear whether it has been closed off since the completion of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, or when it became a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian's museum since 1976). Because the craft has been sealed for so long, NASA scientists and Smithsonian staff forgot about the somewhat unusual legacy left behind inside of 107: the graffiti the astronauts left on the module's walls, which gives us an idea of exactly what it was like to be crammed into an 10.7-by-12-foot area no bigger than a storage shed in the middle of space.
The graffiti is a jumble of everything from scientific observations and recorded calculations (as Fast Co. Design notes, the Apollo 11 crew used an old-school sextant as a backup to double-check and ensure their craft's navigation) to a calendar etched onto the wall to funny (and sometimes slightly gross) notes, like a locker with the inscription "launch day urine bags," and another one scratched onto a different locker that simply labels it "smelly waste."
So what caused the rediscovery? An enhanced exhibition at NASM, which the Smithsonian hopes will serve as a more immersive experience for museum-goers: rather than having to attempt a peek through 107's windows to get a slight glimpse of the interior, visitors will be able to fully see a 3D-rendering of what's inside. Designing the virtual tour (which NASM intends to turn into a full virtual reality experience in the near future) was what lead the Smithsonian's staff to rediscover the wall etchings, after experts purportedly took thousands of photos to make the 3D experience as accurate as possible.
While the 3D virtual tour was previewed on Thursday, Feb. 11, the tour tech will not be introduced to museum visitors until summer 2016. In the meantime, check out some photos of the module's graffiti, courtesy of the Smithsonian, posted below.