Pittsburgh's Moonshot Museum offers a window into space exploration by inviting you to be part of it
The Moonshot Museum opened to the public on Oct. 15. Visitors can watch as engineers work on a lander being prepped for a moon mission and experience interactive exhibits.
PITTSBURGH – A visit to the new Moonshot Museum in Pittsburgh is all the convincing you should need that Western Pennsylvania is about to enter the same class as well-known space towns such as Houston, Cape Canaveral and Huntsville with storied roles in spaceflight.
Focusing on the achievements of present and future space exploration, the Moonshot Museum is the only place in the country where you can watch engineers in a clean room work on a robot destined for another world without special access.
That experience is possible because the museum is located within Astrobotic's headquarters on Pittsburgh's north side. The lunar logistics and robotic company set aside 3,000 square feet to make room for the nonprofit museum and provide a window into their work.
"The real spark is when people step into the space for the first time, and they go, 'Oh, you weren't kidding. I am 10 feet away from a lunar spacecraft right now. I am waving through the glass to the engineers who are building, technicians who are building the spacecraft on the other side of the glass.'" Moonshot Museum Executive Director Sam Moore said.
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Astrobotic is currently targeting early 2023 to launch the Peregrine moon lander, a mission that will carry the first NASA payloads to the moon under the Artemis program, setting the stage for a human landing in 2025.
Astrobotic's mission control is also located in the same building. During a mission, the museum will transform to be a seat at the table in mission control. All the screens in the building will carry a live feed from mission control, and the museum has events planned around the Peregrine moon landing.
The museum held a few soft openings ahead of the grand opening Saturday. The reactions so far validate the unique experience now open to everyone.
Moore said a local college student and space enthusiast became emotional when she saw the clean room for the first time.
"That moment where she could come in and stand on the other side of the glass. Take a look at this work that's happening behind me," Moore said, pointing to the clean room. "It was an overwhelming moment for her, and it was very, very cool to be here for that."
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Among the goals of the nonprofit museum is to make sure their guests know there is a place in space for them, especially visiting students of all ages. While astronauts and rocket scientists are well-known career paths, making any space mission possible requires many different jobs.
"The reality is that it takes folks who can work on HVAC systems, and it takes folks who can market the space industry," Moore said. "It takes policymakers, and it takes designers to inspire the next generation of spacecraft."
A visitor to Moonshot can experience real space industry challenges, including assembling a lunar lander, finding a site for a moon base and learning how to survive in the lunar environment. The concept is that each interactive exhibit will introduce visitors to real careers within the space industry.
The Moonshot Museum has partnered with Pittsburgh Public Schools, Carnegie Mellon University, Saint Francis University and STEM education nonprofits to develop student-driven experiences. Moore said the museum will work specifically with both middle school and high school students to make sure those students know that, "space is on the menu for them in Pittsburgh."
"We want to get people up close to this work," Moore said. "We want them to find their place in the future of space exploration, and we want them to leave knowing that this is happening here in their backyard and that they can be involved in it."
The museum will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children and free for children 2 and under.