May 09, 2016 by Amanda Visconti

Lunar dust & tapioca pudding (touring Purdue Archives' aerospace collections)

The Purdue University Archives & Special Collections (ASC) have an amazing aerospace history collection due to Purdue’s many students and faculty who were pilots (Amelia Earhart was faculty), went on to be astronauts, or worked in the aerospace industry. I’m working with the ASC towards digital humanities projects that increase public and student access to our collections; in particular, we’re planning to use 3D scanning and printing to make some of the more interesting, fragile, or rare artifacts more accessible to visitors and student researchers. Today, Flight Archivist Tracy Grimm kindly gave me a tour of some of the objects we’re thinking about using in our DH work.

I’ve shared some of the more interesting things below (sorry for shaky photo quality on a couple of these!). These photos were okayed for educational sharing on social media (copyright info here if you’re interested in using these somehow).

Amelia Earhart’s goggles. These are too fragile for regular handling; we want to explore using various types of 3D printing filament (pliable, glass-like) to replicate these as wearable facsimiles.

An ice pick Amelia Earhart used to puncture open cans of tomato juice. She used these as a compact way of getting calories while flying. (I think Tracy said this was a specific brand—Beecham’s?—and that Earhart was used in their advertisements.)

Checking out the safe inside the archives vault where artifacts are kept extra-secure, including Amelia Earhart’s scrapbooks and helmet, the smelling salts she used to keep awake during her flights, and flight suits.

A glove astronaut Eugene Cernan wore on the moon. Sealed in a bag so as not to lose any of the lunar dust.

A “frangible nut” from a space shuttle flown on by astronaut Janice Voss. The nut was packed with explosive charges and separated from a rocket on takeoff (presented on a commemorative plaque). It’s quite heavy, and the edges are sharp where explosives sheared off the metal. The nuts were originally around 50 lbs, so this fragment is about 25 lbs.

Astronaut food from the Mark N. Brown Papers collection, assumedly used during training on Earth. Each contains info on how to prepare the food. Potatoes au gratin, noodles and chicken, tapioca pudding, butter cookies! Each unit includes a small velcro dot (to anchor the food to something when there’s no gravity).

Possibly the coolest business card title: “Astronaut”.

Apollo XVII LRV Map Book, a commemorative binding of maps actually used on the moon by astronaut Eugene Cernan while traveling on the lunar rover. A broken fender on the lunar rover had to be repaired (while on the moon!) with 4 of the map pages (the Smithsonian has the repaired fender in its collection). The individual pages aren’t too interesting to look at, but we’re thinking about creating a digital quilt of the images and then augmenting this with historical and topographical information.