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Neil Armstrong Had a Secret Stash of Moon Stuff

“Lost” Apollo 11 artifacts are now found

(Bettmann/CORBIS)
smithsonian.com

On the surface, the white cloth bag full of clunky objects didn't seem like anything special. It was found hidden in a closet, where it had sat for decades. But the bag, known simply as “The Purse,” is not an ordinary collection of knickknacks—it holds a priceless moon artifacts Neil Armstrong made off with after the Apollo 11 mission.

When Carol Armstrong, Neil’s widow, contacted Allan Needell, curator of the National Air and Space Museum’s Apollo collection, she wasn’t just calling to say hi. Instead, she told Needell that she had found a white cloth bag in a closet—a bag that looked to be full of space stuff. Needell immediately realized that the bag was “The Purse,” a storage pouch used by astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission to stash repair equipment and other items.

The find is nothing short of momentous, reports NASA:

After some research it became apparent that the purse and its contents were lunar surface equipment carried in the Lunar Module Eagle during the epic journey of Apollo 11. These artifacts are among the very few Apollo 11 flown items brought back from Tranquility Base and, thus, are of priceless historical value.

The collection may look mundane to the untrained eye—it’s a pile of straps, wrenches and other equipment. But one item in particular caught the attention of historians: a 16mm movie camera that was used to film the ship’s lunar descent and landing. It’s the very camera that filmed the astronauts as they took that famous first moonwalk and planted a flag on the lunar surface.

"Needless to say, for a curator of a collection of space artifacts, it is hard to imagine anything more exciting," Needell wrote on the museum's Airspace Blog.

Sploid has a short inventory of the bag’s contents, which include a mirror, a strap for tying down Armstrong’s space helmet, and an emergency wrench. We may never know why Armstrong kept a pile of priceless space stuff to himself, but the artifacts, which have been identified and documented by the team at the National Air and Space Museum, are now on loan to the museum and will eventually be displayed to the public.

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