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star chart flown to the Moon

(APOLLO 11.). Star Chart, flown and used on the Apollo 11 mission, annotated and signed by Command Module Pilot Michael Collins.

NASA, 1969

5 x 10 in. This star chart shows dozens of stars and constellations for reference aboard the Command Module Columbia. Key stars are marked and named in orange and black ink, and the stars to be entered into the Apollo Guidance Computer are boldly numbered 1 through 45.

A key navigational aid in taking man to the Moon and back to Earth. The astronauts of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, used this very star chart to find their way to the Moon and back in July 1969. Collins has extensively annotated this star chart and written on it, “During the flight of Apollo Eleven, I used this chart to help me locate stars. (The numbers were entered into the Command Module Computer) Michael Collins CMP.”

“With the advent of the digital computer that was introduced into the Apollo spacecraft, the star charts changed to accommodate the new system. The star charts were redesigned from the circular chart type to a more rectangular chart. The constellations were aligned on the ecliptic. Specific stars were highlighted, named and numbered with a two digit numerical code numbering 1 through 45. … As the missions to the moon progressed, the star charts continued their metamorphosis. … The constellations are heavily outlined and there are no background star fields to confuse the astronauts at key moments. Speed and accuracy were required since the star sightings were usually done during key events like Translunar Insertion (TLI) or Trans Earth Insertion (TEI)” (www.spaceartifactsarchive.com).

This wonderful relic of Apollo 11 exemplifies both the space program’s engineering achievements and the drama of the astronauts’ experience in a tiny spacecraft nearly a quarter of a million miles from home. This is an evocative object akin to the sextants and charts used by history’s great explorers.

Provenance: Michael Collins, Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot, with his annotations and his letter of provenance stating, “I certify that the accompanying star chart was used by me during the flight of Apollo XI to and from the moon. The idea was to point the spacecraft at a star, entering its number in our computer, and repeating the process with several other stars. In this way valuable navigational information could be obtained independent of Mission Control. Michael Collins Apollo XI CMP.”