In addition to the “Apollo 11 Codices”, the National Air and Space Museum holds approximately 150 works by the artist Mitchell Jamieson (1915 – 1976). The “Apollo 11 Codices” exemplify Jamieson’s journalistic style of painting, which was one reason NASA brought him into its Fine Art Program. Aboard the U.S.S. Hornet, Jamieson sketched the seamen working to recover the capsule and crew from the successful Apollo 11 mission. Jamieson was known for his depictions of the onlookers at major events rather than the events themselves. This style allows the viewer to believe that they are there as part of the crowd, feeling the energy and excitement.
Three of Jamieson’s works are traveling as part of the exhibition “NASA Art: Fifty Years of Exploration” organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in cooperation with NASA and the National Air and Space Museum. Two of his paintings hang on the third floor of the Museum, including “There!” near the Director’s office. A painting on board, “There!,” shows the seamen aboard the U.S.S. Hornet pointing to the sky, seeing the Columbia command module descending on its parachute. As with his sketches in “Apollo 11 Codices,” he allows us to join in the excitement of this great moment of human achievement.
There! by Mitchell Jamieson
Before World War II, Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes commissioned Jamieson to paint a mural for the new Interior Building depicting the Marian Anderson concert on the National Mall entitled “An Incident in Contemporary American Life”. Ickes and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had organized this concert after Marian Anderson was denied singing at Constitution Hall due to the color of her skin. In the mural, Jamieson concentrates on the crowd— even giving us portraits of individuals that we would be standing next to—straining to hear the concert which inaugurated the use of the Lincoln Memorial as a sight for civil rights protests.
An Incident in Contemporary American Life by Mitchell Jamieson Courtesy of the U.S. General Services Administration, Fine Arts Program
Jamieson, who was born in Kensington, Maryland and studied at the Corcoran School, was an official combat artist for the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he depicted the invasion of Sicily, the invasion at Normandy, as well as the Japanese surrender on board the U.S.S. Missouri. Jamieson was awarded the Bronze Star by the U.S. Navy for his work. In addition to his renderings for NASA of Apollo recoveries, Jamieson covered Mercury missions as well as a Saturn launch.
Jamieson volunteered as a civilian artist for the U.S. Army in Vietnam. This effort took an enormous toll from which he was not to recover. In 1976 he took his own life.
Sources: biographies from the Archives of AskArt and the Navy Museum.
Hunter Hollins is Loan Manager for the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum.
I have a really cool job. When I’m out and someone asks: “What do you do?” I reply: “I work at the National Air and Space Museum.” The response is usually: “Wow, that’s cool” and then I say: “Yes it is very cool.” One of the things that makes being an educator here great is our teaching collection. I’m lucky, I work with a curatorial and collections staff that considers our needs as educators and provides the public with deaccessioned items they can touch and examine up close. Our teaching collection currently contains real space food, shuttle tiles, bits of airplanes, meteorites, uniforms and other assorted items. However, not all the items are real; our most popular replica is the shuttle era space suit. The suit has been part of the Discovery Station Program for over ten years. It was purchased with a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and is part of the Living and Working in Space Discovery Station, our most popular station, largely because of the suit. The station gets an average of 40,000 visitors yearly, but that’s only a portion of the crowds the suit sees. It has also become a key object used for family days, story times and school tours.
Mock Space Shuttle Suit
Beth Wilson demonstrates dressing for space
During the summer of 2006, I was rolling the suit back into its case and the glove fell off. I took a good look at the suit and was distressed to see how it was aging. Hundreds of thousands of hands touching it over the years had taken their toll. But I allowed it to be used with the public while I pondered where I could find $45,000 to replace it. With no funding forthcoming, the suit just wouldn’t survive another busy season. I decided that it should remain on view in its case and brought out only for special programs.
As the Museum’s Development office looked for funding sources, someone mentioned our aging suit to ILC Dover’s Bill Ayrey. ILC Dover is the company that designs and manufactures NASA’s space suits, beginning with the Apollo Missions. Bill generously offered to repair the suit. So, last fall Bill drove down, picked up our suit and took it to ILC Dover. The very talented seamstresses sewed on new arms, Bill cleaned the pants, re-stuffed the suit, acquired recent mission patches and updated the gloves. The crew at ILC Dover could not have been more helpful or generous with their time and talent. I am grateful for all the effort that went into the refurbishment. I can honestly say it looks brand new. In fact, Bill and his crew did such a good job that an ILC employee mistook it for a real shuttle suit!
ILC Seamstresses pose with the newly repaired suit
The suit made it back to the museum last month. I was on the phone with a colleague at another museum when the call came in that Bill had arrived. I told her: “I’m sorry. I’ll have to call you later, my space suit is back from ILC!” To which she replied: “You have the coolest job ever.” “Yes,” I said. “Yes, I do.”
Beth Wilson is the Discovery Station Program Coordinator at the National Air and Space Museum.
In the summer of 2009 the United States celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the first Moon landing, Apollo 11. Amidst all of the hoopla virtually every news story, especially in the electronic world, made some comment about a supposedly rising belief that humans have never landed on the Moon. Why?
This image of Buzz Aldrin saluting the U.S. flag on the Moon in 1969 is often used by Moon landing deniers as evidence that the landing was filmed on Earth, because the flag appears to be waving in the breeze, and we all know there is no breeze on the Moon. When astronauts were planting the flagpole they rotated it back and forth to better penetrate the lunar soil (anyone who’s set a blunt tent-post will know how this works). Of course the flag waved—no breeze required!
Of course, from almost the point of the first Apollo missions, a small group of Americans have denied that it had taken place. This group seems to be expanding as the events of Apollo recede into history. Aided by a youth movement that does not remember what went down in the Apollo era and for whom distrust of government runs high, it is among that cadre of Americans where those who are skeptical have proliferated. Jaded by so many other government scandals, these younger members of society whose recollection of Apollo is distant to begin with finds it easy to believe the questioning they see on myriad Moon hoax web sites. Lack of understanding of science and failure to employ critical analytical skills make them more susceptible to this type of hucksterism.
There has been considerable research on the parts of society that embrace conspiracy theories of all types. Arguing that conspiracism writ large represents a fundamental part of the political system, legal scholar Mark Fenster claims in Conspiracy Theories:Secrecy and Power in American Culture (Minnesota, 2008), that such conspiracies represent “a polarization so profound that people end up with an unshakable belief that those in power ‘simply can’t be trusted’.”
At the time of the first landings, opinion polls showed that overall less than five percent “doubted the moon voyage had taken place.” Fueled by conspiracy theorists of all stripes, this number has grown over time. In a 2004 poll, while overall numbers remained about the same, among Americans between 18 and 24 years old “27% expressed doubts that NASA went to the Moon,” according to pollster Mary Lynne Dittmar. Doubt is different from denial, but this represents a trend that seemed to be growing over time among those who did not witness the events.
Perhaps this situation should not surprise us. A lot of other truly weird beliefs exist in society. Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt has been philosophical about this turn: “If people decide they’re going to deny the facts of history and the facts of science and technology, there’s not much you can do with them. For most of them, I just feel sorry that we failed in their education.”
While it is inappropriate for us to take this denial seriously and opinion surveys show consistently that few do, for those raised in the postmodern world of the latter twentieth century where the nature of truth is so thoroughly questioned it is more likely to gain a footing.
The media, especially, have fueled doubts over the years. While this may not be viewed as a definitive statement, a child’s bib I have seen places the blame squarely on the media’s back. It reads: “Once upon a time people walked on the moon. They picked up some rocks. They planted some flags. They drove a buggy around for a while. Then they came back. At least that’s what grandpa said. The TV guy said it was all fake. Grandpa says the TV guy is an idiot. Someday, I want to go to the moon too.”
No question, the February 2001 airing of the Fox special Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? changed the nature of the debate. In this instance a major network presented a conspiracy scenario without any serious rebuttal that might have been offered. As USA Today (April 9, 2001) reported in the aftermath of the show: “According to Fox and its respectfully interviewed ‘experts’—a constellation of ludicrously marginal and utterly uncredentialed ‘investigative journalists’—the United States grew so eager to defeat the Soviets in the intensely competitive 1960s space race that it faked all six Apollo missions.”
The Decision to Go to the Moon: President John F. Kennedy's May 25, 1961 speech before a Joint Session of Congress, in Washington DC, USA. Vice President Lyndon Johnson (left) and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn (right) are in the background.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans made it possible to reach the Moon. This launch of Apollo 11 represents one of the most watched events in human history. It defies credulity that so many people could have perpetrated such a hoax.
The Fox show raised the profile of Moon landing deniers. And it sparked considerable response. Marc Norman at the University of Tasmania quipped, “Fox should stick to making cartoons. I’m a big fan of The Simpsons!”
Whereas NASA had refrained from officially responding to these charges—avoiding anything that might dignify the claims—the Fox show demanded that it change its approach. After the Fox program first aired, NASA released a one-paragraph press release entitled, “Apollo: Yes, We Did,” that was minimalist to say the least. It also posted a NASA information sheet originally issued in 1977 to readdress some of the concerns and pointed people with questions to various Internet sites containing responses. NASA officials added, “To some extent debating this subject is an insult to the thousands who worked for years to accomplish the most amazing feats of exploration in history. And it certainly is an insult to the memory of those who have given their lives for the exploration of space.”
Denials of the Moon landings appropriately should be denounced as crackpot ideas. I look forward to the time when we return to the Moon and can tour “Tranquility Base” for ourselves.
Roger D. Launius is a senior curator in the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum.