ABILENE, KAN.- The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum
marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a new temporary exhibit highlighting the influential events and achievements of the U.S. space program beginning in the 1950s. The exhibit can be seen free of charge in the upper mezzanine of the Library building.
The exhibit provides a glimpse of Dwight D. Eisenhower's contributions to space exploration which culminated in the successful moon landing on July 20, 1969. The U.S. successfully launched its first earth satellite, Explorer I, on Jan. 31, 1958. President Eisenhower signed legislation on July 29, 1958, establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
"Although no Americans flew into space during Ike's presidency, the first Mercury capsule did on Dec. 19, 1960," states Timothy Rives, deputy director. "So the first steps toward the lunar landing were in effect taken on Ike's watch."
The exhibit includes correspondence from Eisenhower's post-presidential years. Of particular interest is a 1965 letter written by Gemini astronaut Frank Borman who took issue with Eisenhower's public comment referring to the manned space program as a series of stunts. "Those of us who have dedicated our careers to this program do not consider it to be a stunt," writes Borman.
Eisenhower wrote in reply, "What I have criticized about the current space program is the concept under which it was drastically revised and expanded just after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961.... The President of the United States announced that this nation challenged the Russians to a race to the moon, implying that the prestige of the U.S.A. would be riding on this issue. This, I thought, unwise."
There are additional artifacts on display in the Museum relating to the space program. These include a moon rock from the Apollo 15 mission and Astronaut Ed White's Gemini 4 training/back-up helmet for the 1965 mission. A framed small American flag and patch insignia carried on the Apollo 8 flight signed by the crew, Frank Borman, James Lovell and Bill Anders, can also be seen in the Museum.