When it comes to all of the artifacts we've amassed over decades of American spaceflight, none looms larger than Columbia, the command module that took astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to and from the moon during Apollo 11, the first moon landing. It's a monument to one of the 20th century's greatest achievements, and it's been on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for decades, but somehow we still don't know all of its secrets.
In recent months, the Air and Space Museum's staff has been scouring every inch of Columbia, inside and out, taking high-resolution laser scans that will eventually be compiled into a 3D model that researchers and museum visitors alike will be able to view, so they can take in every detail of the craft. In performing these scans, the staff's been looking at nooks and crannies of the ship that no one's paid attention to in decades, and they've found a few fascinating things, namely scribbles left on Columbia's walls by the three astronauts.
First, there's this interesting image:
What you're looking at is a panel next to the module's navigation station, and a careful study of transcripts from the mission reveals that these are a series of coordinates module pilot Michael Collins was given by Houston as he tried to locate the lunar module, Eagle, on the lunar surface while he orbited the moon. Collins was apparently unsuccessful, but he did scribble plenty of the possible coordinates on the panel in the process.
Then there's this image, which reveals some of the ... challenges of spaceflight.
Every available storage space on Columbia was carefully laid out and given a specific purpose, but at some point early in the mission the astronauts decided to improvise. As you can see, the top panel has been labeled "Launch Day Urine Bags." The module's waste disposal system did not come online right away, so for the first day of the mission the crew had to use a more primitive method, and apparently wanted to make sure the waste from that day was safely tucked away where it wouldn't float back out.
Then there's this image:
A simple calendar, with the days of the mission crossed off one by one (except the last day, perhaps because the astronauts splashed down back on Earth very early that day). Researchers are still trying to determine which of the astronauts drew the calendar and why (perhaps it was just ceremonial), but it's another amusing discovery on a craft that's still delivering surprises.