Apollo Lunar Module Structural Test Model

Lunar Module Engineering Module at The Franklin Institute, July 2016

Positioned behind The Franklin Institute at the corner of 21st Street and Race Street in Philadelphia is a unique artifact that dates to the height of the Space Race and has particular importance in the legacy of NASA’s Apollo program that successfully landed twelve individuals on the Moon between 1969 and 1972.

On loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, The Apollo Lunar Module (LM) Structural Test Model manufactured by Grumman Aerospace has resided in our Science Park since 1976 and is a full-scale representation of the spacecraft that was used by NASA to conduct the lunar landings of Apollo 11, Apollo 12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17.

This structural test model was not built to be flown to the Moon. As the Apollo Lunar Module was the first manned spacecraft to be designed exclusively for use outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, which led to a number of unique challenges in its design. The LM needed to be compact and use house of the most sophisticated equipment of its time, but, in the absence of air resistance in space and on the Moon, it did not need to be aerodynamic at all. The object at The Franklin Institute was, instead, used by the engineers as they experimented with the design of the module and how it would eventually fit into the Saturn V Rocket and make its way 238,900 miles (384,472 km) to the Moon.