Sometimes the hardest thing about creating an exhibition at The Corning Museum of Glass is selecting which objects make the cut, so to speak. For the exhibition Journey to the Moon: How Glass Got Us There, we thought about including telescopes and some other objects from our collection that related to the Apollo 11 mission. One such object is this uniquely shaped souvenir tumbler.
Ultimately, we decided to focus on the glass in the Apollo spacecraft, glass in the astronauts’ space suits, and the glassy material found on the Moon. This commemorative tumbler simply didn’t fit into any of those categories, so we placed it in the Study Gallery and decided to feature it here, on the Museum’s blog instead.
This footed souvenir glass tumbler, from its unusual form to the images it displays, tells the story of the first manned lunar landing. Let’s take a closer look.
The mission of the Apollo program – to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth – was more than just a long shot. This was a MOONSHOT, a seemingly impossible mission that required innovative thinking and technology. And yet, on July 20, 1969, millions of people around the world heard Neil Armstrong say, “The eagle has landed,” fulfilling the illustration on the mission patch that astronauts Mike Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong designed.
“Eagle” was the name of the Lunar Module, which astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin navigated and landed on the Moon’s surface. Eagle also carried scientific equipment for experiments left on the Moon to collect and transmit data back to Earth. Additionally, Armstrong collected lunar soil to bring back to Earth so that geologists could study the Moon from the comfort of their planet. His lunar soil collection technique is also depicted on the tumbler.
The glass includes an inscription that reads “LIQUID FUEL RED LINE,” which presumably informs the user how far to fill it with their beverage of choice. But it also sheds light on the unusual shape of this souvenir glass. The Apollo spacecraft consisted of three main components: Lunar Module, Command Module, and Service Module. The fuel tanks and engine of the Apollo spacecraft were housed within the Service Module (SM), which is where this tumbler gets its shape.
The narrow foot of this tumbler resembles the main engine nozzle. However, when the glass is inverted, its hollow foot functions as a shot glass, giving another meaning to the word MOONSHOT printed on the glass. So, raise a glass and let us celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing!
For more information about how glass was instrumental in the success of the Apollo 11 mission, you can read my earlier blog post, Reflections on Apollo.