NASA’s “lost” tapes of the first moonwalk are part of a new outer space gallery at Ripley’s attraction on International Drive. The company bought the Apollo 11 video tapes at a Sotheby’s auction for $1.82 million in 2019, and museum visitors can now see the tapes that feature the famous ‘giant leap’ moment by Neil Armstrong.
Relics near Ripley include a 3,000 pound meteorite, a touchable piece of Mars, Buzz Aldrin’s jumpsuit and five locks of Armstrong’s hair. The new Out of This World gallery represents the completion of the renovation of the I-Drive attraction, which has been planning and gradually installing new exhibits since mid-2020.
The lunar tapes, believed to be the only surviving first generation recordings of the event, were salvaged by a former NASA intern who purchased several tapes in 1976 at a government surplus auction for 270.77 $.
The labels on the reel read “Apollo II EVA, July 20, 1969”.
It was feared that the tape had been taped, a common practice. But now the tapes are in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment, said Sabrina Sieck, senior creative content manager.
“That glass, obviously, is UV safety LED lighting, so it defaults at times to protect the film a bit more,” she said.
Ripley’s posting also explains how the footage was transmitted to Houston (via Australia) and compares the quality of the TV footage with scenes from the 1969 reels, one of which includes President Richard’s moon call. Nixon.
“This is going to tickle a lot of people’s imaginations,” said Dennis Speigel, CEO of International Theme Park Services. “They always seem to get that high, cutting edge item that people want to come and see, that pulls them in the door rather than going to something next door.”
The Space Gallery includes a practice area to demonstrate movement in space. The gloves “show how an astronaut should work in space,” Sieck said. “You kind of feel what those challenges are and kind of feel what it’s like to maneuver a bit.” There’s also a 16-foot-tall screen with video content, but it can be switched to live programming.
“So if Artemis didn’t launch in the middle of the night, we could have an event here where guests would watch it live on the screen,” Sieck said.
Continuing the otherworldly theme of the exhibit, a movie prop: Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber hilt from “Star Wars,” which Ripley purchased in 2017.
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The Out of This World Gallery is the culmination stage of the attraction’s new traffic flow, which still features quirks, but additional interactive moments are now in place. In a mummies section, a touchscreen kiosk allows virtual exploration of the figure’s layers “without physically interfering with the exhibit,” Sieck said.
The renovation added “a bit more science and education to what would have been sort of sitting on the shelves,” she said.
Other galleries include one with rotating exhibits from other Ripley museums (it currently has a parallel theme) and another that mimics the company’s warehouse and allows research into objects Ripley has from its global collections. There is also a “Florida Tour” section which includes myths and legends.
“We try to incorporate something local for each of our attractions to really prove that all of our attractions are completely different from each other,” Sieck said.
South Orlando-based Ripley Entertainment has 32 museums, often called “odditoriums,” as well as aquariums, a set of Mirror Maze locations, and other attractions, including mini-golf courses and train rides. red from Ripley in St. Augustine.
“I would say they are the king of impulse attractions in the world,” Speigel said. “All countries in the world want it.”
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