Since the epic Ramayana was written by the Hindu poet Valmiki between 500 and 100 BC, with a flying ship that takes King Rama on his celestial journey, space fascinates mankind. The journey to the stars went from a dream to a reality only in the 20th century, and an aerospace exhibition set up in the parking lot of Shopping Eldorado invites the public to know part of the history of space exploration and to interact with more than 300 original objects used in the Apollo program, from Nasa.
Space Adventure greets visitors with a video to the sound of Rocket Man, by Elton John, at the entrance, and among the most interesting items are objects donated by NASA that help to satiate the curiosity about daily life in the space in relation to food and hygiene. Vacuum-sealed food, intact since the 1970s, and cloth used in costumes to collect feces and urine are unusual details of the show. Original costumes, including a boot still smudged with moon dust, an outfit worn by Buzz Aldrin and other preserved items are on display.
Panels recount the history of space exploration from the first missiles by German engineer Wernher von Braun made for war purposes during World War II – a stark reminder that science can be used for both civilizing advancement and backwardness. Life-size replicas of the lunar landing and re-entry modules (which shows how claustrophobic the return trip was, with three astronauts holed up in a shuddering cubicle) and the cars used for activities on the lunar surface give the real dimension of the items. The space created in a heated tent, however, offers little ventilation for visitors.
To promote the Space Adventure, an illustrious character came to São Paulo: Charles Duke, 10th astronaut to set foot on the Moon, being the youngest of all to date. “Of all the exhibitions I’ve seen around the world, this is the most complete,” he said during a press conference this Thursday, 26. “Not all articles flew into space, because NASA unfortunately canceled the three final missions of the project Apollo, but they were all made to fly.”
Duke was part of the ground team during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk another celestial body. In 1972, it was his turn to travel with the Apollo 16, at 36 years old, being a pilot of the lunar module. “The experience of walking on the Moon did not change my life. Unlike other astronauts, I had no spiritual, psychological or philosophical experiences. I was very focused on the mission and didn’t have time to think very deeply about it at the time,” he admits.
To carry out a mission of such a degree of complexity as the trips to the Moon were, astronauts must have physical training, technical knowledge and psychological resilience. Asked what is most decisive, he reflects: “For the success of a mission, training is the most important. Sure, if everything works. If you have an explosion during takeoff, your training won’t do you any good.”
Duke took this lesson from a prank he played on lunar soil, trying to beat the high jump record – which he claims to have achieved. The mischief made him fall on his back and nearly break the life support apparatus of his suit, without which he would die. “Never do anything in space that you haven’t trained extensively on Earth.”
He remembers that, according to the plan, he would have to sleep between landing and outside activities. “Imagine how hard it was to sleep two hours after landing on the moon.”
Duke says he welcomes new space ventures led by companies and has even recommended that friends fly into space. “When you’re there, don’t think about the lack of gravity. Look out the window. It will be a sight you’ve never seen,” he says.
For him, initiatives like the Space Adventure they are relevant to combat growing scientific denial – such as the dangerous anti-vaccination movement – and conspiracy theories – such as the one suggesting that the moon landing did not occur or that the Earth is flat. “We landed on the Moon six times. It’s unquestionable. You can see the rocks we brought, the landing sites with our cars. And the Earth I saw from space is round.”