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Apollo 11 Mission Memorialized With 2,200 Pounds of Butter

A buttery Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, along with a couple cows, are on display at the Ohio State Fair

Wait, isn’t the moon made of cheese though? (American Dairy Association Mideast)
smithsonian.com

The Apollo 11 astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins—have received many of the United States' highest awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Now, they can add being sculpted in butter to their list of accolades.

The milky visages of the moon crew are part of a 50th anniversary tribute to the moon landing at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. CNN's Isabela Espadas Barros Leal reports that the tribute was carved from 2,200 pounds of butter by Cincinnati artist Paul Brooke and a team of assistants.

The full-size figures of the astronauts features Armstrong and Aldrin seated with Collins standing behind them in front of a panorama of the moon’s surface with the Earth in the background. The display also includes a giant buttery replica of the Apollo mission logo and a life-size figure of Armstrong in his spacesuit near one of the feet of the lunar lander where he's saluting the flag after placing it on the moon’s surface along with his footprint near the base—all details, of course, made of butter.

A butter cow and calf have appeared at the fair every year since 1903 and, of course, the sculptors did not want to end the streak. Fittingly, a cow and calf with ear tags that read “Apollo” and “11” are featured in the display as well. (The cow did jump over the moon, according the Mother Goose, so it works.)

While creating the butter diorama was not as difficult as orbiting the moon, it had its challenges. Sarah Brookbank at the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the artists began by welding a steel frame to hold the butter. Then they smoothed the butter, which comes in 55 pound blocks, onto the armatures. In total the project took 500 hours to complete, including 400 hours spent in a chilly 46-degree cooler making every detail perfect.

Butter Apollo 11
Sculptors spent 400 hours in a cooler perfecting details of the butter display. (American Dairy Association Mideast)

“The space suits were a real challenge, to be honest. It’s easy to sculpt things that you know,” Alexander Balz, one of the dairy sculptors, tells CNN. “When you sculpt a human being you memorize it, so this was a challenge.”

This isn’t the first time that the Ohio State Fair has gone beyond cows and calves with its butter art. In the past, they’ve carved tributes to the Olympics, created a butter eagle, butter ice cream cone, a dairy Darth Vader, a sculpture of Dave Thomas the founder of Wendy’s, and even a cream-carved Furby. They’ve also memorialized Ohio native John Glenn, who was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, and thay had previously honored Armstrong, who is also from Ohio, with a solo sculpture.

This year the Apollo 11 anniversary was the perfect butter-worthy celebration, says Jenny Hubble, a spokesperson for the American Dairy Association Mideast, which sponsored the display.

“Those who remember the moon landing often recall exactly where they were and how they felt, and the 50th anniversary is the perfect time to pay tribute to this amazing event and share that excitement with a new generation,” Hubble says in a press release. “Ohio also has a special connection to that day, as one of our own took the first-ever steps on the surface of the moon.”

There’s also another big connection. After his retirement from NASA soon after he came home from the moon, Armstrong moved to a small dairy farm outside of Lebanon, Ohio. (Though it’s not known if the famously private astronaut engaged in any butter sculpting.)

If the whole thing seems like a giant waste of dairy fat, don’t fret. CNN reports that the butter used in the sculpture was past its expiration date. They estimate 500,000 people will pass through the dairy building to see it before the fair is over, at which point the figures will be melted down and converted into biodiesel.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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