From Gas Station to Space Station: How NASA Conquered Low-Earth OrbitVisit Website
On July 20, 1969, Commander Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of that epic achievement, the National Corvette Museum, in conjunction with NASA and the Marshall Space Flight Center, have put together an exhibit that will inspire and remind us that no goal is too far out of reach. The exhibit is called From Gas Station to Space Station: How NASA Conquered Low-Earth Orbit.
With Mars being the next giant leap for mankind, conquering low earth orbit is key to making that happen. Through the experiments and lessons learned on our journeys to the moon, along with all we’ve discovered from the Space Shuttle program, Skylab, and the International Space Station, we are already preparing for that next epic adventure. This exhibit explores the ongoing quest for interplanetary travel.
NCM curator Derek E. Moore is looking forward to sharing this story with visitors to the Museum. “This exhibit shows where we’ve gone since going to the moon and tells the story of where that transformative moment in history has led us,” he said. “We’ll be looking at some stories about how one becomes an astronaut and look into how we landed on the moon, and how that is leading us into the future.”
Derek is happy to also highlight a local connection to space travel. “Western Kentucky University has been kind enough to loan us Terry Wilcutt’s actual flight suit, helmet, boots and glove," Derek said of the WKU alumus. "Col. Wilcutt actually went to Naval Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun), and he has been on four Space Shuttle missions. Getting to see these artifacts up close will give our guests another fascinating look at this history.”
To do this celebration properly in National Corvette Museum style, it decided to take it a step further and spotlight the fascinating connection between the space program and America’s sports car.
It’s no surprise to anyone that those people who push the envelope in performance aircraft and rockets would want to drive high-performance cars when Earth-bound. For many, the natural choice was Corvette. Alan Shepard started the trend when he drove a 1957 Corvette to the astronaut training base. Later, when he became the first American to travel in space on May 5, 1961, GM President Ed Cole gave him a new Corvette to honor his accomplishment.
Many believe that GM continued to hand out Corvettes to astronauts, but this was not the case. It was former Indy 500 winner, turned Florida Cadillac/Corvette dealer, Jim Rathmann, who perpetuated and cultivated this association by offering a lease agreement for $1 to astronauts. Many of them — from the Mercury Program through Apollo 12 — took Jim up on his offer, forever forging a connection between Corvette and the space program.
To learn more about this story, please make plans to go through From Gas Station to Space Station: How NASA Conquered Low Earth Orbit, running Jan. 14 – July 30 in the Exhibit Hall.