What You Can See and Do at Pittsburgh’s New Moonshot Museum

The nonprofit on the North Side — touted as Pennsylvania’s first space museum — is already drawing hundreds of visitors.
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At the Moonshot Museum, all that stands between you and what may become part of the first American spacecraft to land on the moon in 50 years is a pane of glass.

On one side is a Clean Room, where protectively clothed and hair-netted team members from Astrobotic Technology are assembling the 6-by-8-foot Peregrine lunar lander. The lander is expected to be part of the Vulcan Centaur rocket, slated for launch in early 2023.

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On the other side of the glass is you, in a 3,000-square-foot museum on the North Side, learning about all of the possibilities for our future relationship to space and, if you’re young enough, how you might be integral to that future.

Sam Moore, Moonshot’s executive director, says the intention behind the nonprofit museum — which opened Oct. 15 in a space donated from Astrobotic — is to provide inspiration for space exploration and interest in space-related careers, particularly to middle and high school students.

Astrobotic is a privately held lunar logistics company co-founded in 2007 by Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Red Whittaker with the aim of taking payloads to the moon. It employs 195 people, according to its website.

At the museum, watching technicians is only part of the Moonshot experience. Space-related careers are not just limited to science and technology; they also include disciplines such as design, engineering and law. Toward that end, the museum includes several self-guided, interactive activities that encompass a range of talents and considerations for space exploration. 

For the artistically inclined, you can design a mission patch — using markers on paper — while learning about historic mission names and the symbolism used in related imagery. You can scan your completed design and have it projected onto an image of the lunar surface for others to enjoy as well.

Future engineers might enjoy the challenge of using lightweight blocks to consider the payloads and the power resources that are necessary for rovers to operate on the moon.

A particularly interesting station is billed as a futuristic lunar living room and asks visitors to tap into ethical questions about managing the potential complications of many countries existing in space together. The touchscreen then tells you what percentage of visitors did or do not agree with your answers to the questions.

Moonshot drew more than 1,000 visitors in its first week. While the smallest kids can be kept occupied by some of the activities (particularly designing a mission patch), Moore says the experience becomes richer once children reach first grade. Visitors can expect to spend about an hour working their way through the different stations and watching technicians. The Peregrine lander will be completed in a few weeks; the next project, the Griffin lander, will be three times the size of Peregrine and will take 18 months to complete.

The museum also shows an introductory film with a larger context as to why we need to reinvest in moon travel. Mission Control Pittsburgh, located behind the Clean Room, will play a part during landing and launch operations. At those times, all the screens in the museum will display live feeds of the events. 

Moore says, from job creation to celebration, “Pittsburgh is along for every step of the journey in taking America to the moon.”

Moonshot Museum, 1016 N. Lincoln Ave., North Side; moonshotmuseum.org

Moonshot is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children 3 to 17. Children 2 and under are free. Check the website for discounts and accessibility.

Onsite parking — especially during the week — is limited. Moonshot’s website lists options.

Categories: The 412