The Lunar Module (LM) – originally called the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) and still pronounced “lem” after the name was changed – was the spacecraft that allowed the Apollo astronauts to land on the Moon.
Built by Grumman Aerospace on Long Island, N.Y., the spacecraft had two major parts: the descent stage and the ascent stage, which were carried to lunar orbit by the companion Command Service Module (CSM), a separate spacecraft of approximately twice the mass of the LM that carried the astronauts to and from Earth.
Before Apollo 11 was allowed to land its LM in July 1969, the LM was flight-tested in Earth orbit during Apollo 9 and in lunar orbit during Apollo 10. Altogether, six LMs touched down and hosted 12 Moonwalkers between 1969 and 1972. The final three landers were more advanced versions of the original, carried a Lunar Rover Vehicle – nicknamed the Moon Buggy – and enabled longer stays on the surface.
Discarded after use, the LM was the world’s first true spacecraft in that it could operate only in outer space; it was structurally and aerodynamically incapable of flight through the Earth’s atmosphere. The most reliable component of the Apollo/Saturn system, no LM ever suffered a failure that significantly affected a mission. During the Apollo 13 crisis, the LM Aquarius greatly exceeded its design requirements by maintaining life support for astronauts after an explosion damaged the Apollo Service Module.
The LM model on exhibit is one quarter the size of the actual LM, which was 17.9 ft. (5.5 m) tall and approximately 14.0 ft. (4.3 m) in diameter with a landing gear span of 29.75 ft. (9.07 m).
Lunar Module Names
Each LM was given a radio call sign for those times when it was undocked from the CSM, which also had a name.
|Mission||LM Name||CSM Name|
|Apollo 10||Snoopy||Charlie Brown|
|Apollo 12||Intrepid||Yankee Clipper|
|Apollo 14||Antares||Kitty Hawk|
Astronaut Tom Stafford, commander of the Apollo 10 lunar orbit mission, with Snoopy, the character from Charles Schulz’s syndicated comic strip, “Peanuts.”
The Space Foundation Discovery Center staff and docents present, an artifact lesson series on space exploration history with our very own collection pieces. These two lessons will focus on the Lunar Module.