Apollo space capsule restored for planetarium museum


Courtesy of James Lowe

The Apollo space capsule is loaded on the back of a flatbed truck for transport. Altoona High School’s planetarium and space race museum has been recognized by NASA as an official museum.

By Jada Quinn, Altoona Area High School

Expect to see a new space capsule outside of the planetarium doors of the high school in spring 2020.

Mark Koch, a friend of astrononmy teacher James Krug, found the space capsule rusting on a farm in north central Pa.

“Mark is very generous and is paying for the capsule to be restored and brought here to Altoona,” Krug said.

The capsule will be a keystone of the high school’s space race museum. It will be used as an educational tool for students to learn about the space race and the Apollo space missions. It will also be used as a part of STEM education, and it is an extension to the planetarium museum. The capsule is for students and any guests to the planetarium.

“It will be a teaching tool to show what the astronauts had to go through to train and get through their mission to the moon,” history teacher James Lowe said.

The capsule is being refurbished right now, so at the end of that process, it will come to the high school planetarium. The capsule will arrive in November but due to construction it will be kept at Mansion Park until spring.

“I’m going later today to finalize the paint colors for it,” Krug said.

NASA is very interested in the space program at the high school, and is using Altoona as a pilot school for STEM education.

“If it goes well, me and my friend Mark will be able to tour different NASA facilities and try to get artifacts released from NASA to public schools throughout the country,” Krug said.

The capsule will be placed permanently outside of the planetarium entrance. Students will see it almost every day, and other people will be able to see it driving or walking by and during public or private sky shows at the planetarium.

“We don’t encourage the public to just walk on to school grounds, but it will be available during sky shows,” Krug said.

The base for the capsule is being built, and long term, the high school would like to partner with other local groups, such as the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center, to reconstruct the inside.

“Eventually, the public will be able to come inside, sit in it and feel what it would be like to be an astronaut,” Krug said.

The astronomy club will benefit from this capsule as well.

“It’s an additional attraction, and the money goes to the planetarium and helps the club,” Lowe said.

This story was originally published on Mountain Echo on November 7, 2019.