MILAN.- On the night between 20 and 21 July 1969, around 900 million people were glued to the TV screen, to witness the first human being walking on the surface of the Moon for the first time. Over 20 million of those TV viewers were Italian. Many others, however, heard Gianni Bisiachs words (and saw the accompanying images) as he followed the landing from behind the scenes with the first RAI marathon (28 hours of live broadcasting). This was conducted by Tito Stagno, with a commentary by Andrea Barbato and from the NASA Space Center in Houston Ruggero Orlando.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's moonwalk put a temporary halt to the rancour and turmoil of those years. International journalists and observers prophesied that the American Moon landing would mark the beginning of a collaboration between the USA and the USSR, and possibly bring an end to the Cold War.
The excitement surrounding the event dominated the spectators' minds for a few days: from the day of the launching of Apollo 11 it was as though everything, even in Italy, revolved around the Moon. In schools and cafés all the talk was about this. Shops with front windows decked out in the theme were allowed to keep the television on even during opening hours. The main prison in Rome received 600 TV sets on loan from the Italian Ministry. On the night of the landing no burglaries or robberies occurred: at police headquarters in Milan the phone rang only twice and the situation was much the same in Bologna and Rome.
The discovery of America, the atomic bomb on Japan, and the Apollo 11 mission are the three events that have most shaped our history and memory. Yet only the Moon landing still conjures up the dream of better worlds, of boundless universes in which black holes and distant galaxies make everything possible, wonderful and visionary; for space and the cosmos with its mysteries and discoveries have always fascinated human beings be they scientists or ordinary people, religious or non-religious, dreamers or sceptics.
As the latest space journey undertaken by Samantha Cristoforetti has shown, the feats of astronauts have awoken in children of all ages the desire to become an astronaut.
While most of us have not fulfilled this dream, we now have the possibility of at least getting a close view of that world of becoming part of it, if only for a few hours.
From 27 September, NASA. A Human Adventure is on view in Italy for the first time. Held in Spazio Ventura XV in Milan, this great exhibition is produced by NASA in collaboration with John Nurmien Events and AVATAR. Over the course of its world tour, it has already drawn over 3 million visitors. Designed for adults and children alike, the exhibition offers a rigorously scientific yet at the same time educational and entertaining itinerary that will leave visitors spellbound and inspired at the sight of the great space feats of the past 50 years.
On display are around 300 original items from the American and Soviet space programmes, most of which are on loan from the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center and the Space & Rocket Center. Even more significantly, across five galleries visitors will be catapulted into one of the most fascinating and ambitious endeavours of mankind, the discovery of space. This immersive experience starts at the entrance, when visitors cross the very same board-walk that NASA astronauts used to board shuttles the very board-walk that on the night of 7 December 1972 the three astronauts of Apollo 17 walked across in order to land on the Moon.
Even before then, as soon as they enter the exhibition, visitors can see a replica of the metal crane that, standing at around 100 metres in height, connected the Saturn V Moon Rocket with the legendary launch pad at Cape Canaveral, the famous NASA centre in Florida that follows space missions. But this was not the only use of the iconic crane: it was also used, of course, to provide the spaceship with the fuel and provisions needed when in orbit.
For thousands of years man has been gazing at the night sky and wondering what hides up there, asking himself about stars and constellations. Across the centuries, from the time of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, celestial bodies, stars and galaxies have provided the human mind with inspiration for epic, religious and mystical narratives. Men continued to imagine gods and unknown worlds. Most importantly, they kept on dreaming of unveiling the mysteries buried behind the boldest hypotheses and fancies.
This gallery is devoted to such dreamers writers and artists, men and women, who first conceived and then described visions revolving around the exploration of mysterious space.
Writers have created breathtaking stories that have often proven very similar to subsequent space discoveries and missions, displaying a truly stunning accuracy and precision. Artists have represented space in a variety of ways, some of which are so fascinating that they make people yearn to explore those faraway worlds and this includes the many scientists who have turned the idea of space travel into reality.
This gallery draws inspiration from the so-called Steampunk style (a sub-genre of science fiction): it features bizarre buildings, structures and shapes borrowed directly from narratives and artworks inspired by the universe.
In the 1950s the Cold War, or at any rate the desire to beat the enemy to the punch, was also reflected by the space race: American and Soviet scientists, as well as politicians, were eager to gain supremacy in space at a time in which the first satellites were being launched and the first human beings were travelling beyond the Earth's atmosphere.
Following the launch of Sputnik I in 1957 the first artificial object to orbit the Earth the conflict between the only two superpowers of the era culminated in what is now referred to as the go fever: a remarkable, irrepressible pursuit of new goals, which hastened or produced some of the most important results in the discovery of space.
At first, the Americans found themselves at a disadvantage, as they experienced some technical problems in the development of rockets. Soon, however, they succeeded in matching Soviet technology. In 1961 the Russians launched the first man into pace, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Shortly afterwards, the Americans celebrated their first astronaut in space, Alan Shepard. The stakes rose higher as the space race intensified. In the early 1960s the Americans set their eyes on the Moon and decided that they would reach it within eight years.
This gallery is devoted to the genius rocket scientists and engineers who made the ambitious dreams of space travel a reality. Their remarkable technological achievements are truly awe-inspiring. This gallery shows the amazing evolution of space rockets: from the first German V-2 to the most powerful rocket ever used, the Saturn V Moon Rocket. Visitors have the unique opportunity to get a clear idea of what rocket launchers look like, not least thanks to a large-size reproduction of Saturn V.
Despite what they may have read including many interviews with astronauts and seen for example, reconstructions of the interior of a spaceship most people have little idea what it feels like to find themselves in a markedly hostile environment, one that runs counter to the terrestrial laws we are used to. Travelling through space requires an outstanding level of psycho-physical fitness, and often a healthy dose of naivety too. Surviving in space requires adequate equipment and special skills, acquired through constant training and perseverance. This gallery, devoted to life in space, offers visitors the chance to take a close-up look at astronauts' high-tech equipment, from spacesuits to the special food they eat on space missions. It also offers a detailed overview of what has been the most challenging mission so far the Moon landing.
As the years passed, space missions became increasingly bold and prolonged. New ideas were required, and especially more and more sophisticated technologies to support the space effort. This gallery illustrates the development of aero-spatial technology: from the equipment and vehicles used in the first missions to complex and cutting-edge structures such as the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.
Visitors can admire an extensive collection of American spaceships: from Mercury, the first one ever built, to Gemini, capable of the kind of complex manoeuvres required for Moon landing, and Apollo, which brought the first men to the Moon. We also find the Space Shuttle, which completed many orbiting missions whose results we still benefit from today. Finally, on display alongside these striking examples of aero-spatial engineering are dozens of technological devices from the 1970s and 1980s: evidence of the frantic space race that to this day also thanks to Italian inventiveness is continuing to evolve through amazing new adventures and discoveries.