Topic: When NASA Came To Town

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For one day only on July 29 1971, Kawerau had the opportunity to inspect the Gemini XII spacecraft and associated NASA items, which had in November 1966 spent 94 hours 34 minutes and 31 seconds in space. Over 2,500 people turned up to the premises of Lennie Morgan Motors (now Gull) on Islington Street to view this one day exhibition that had been organised by the combined Lions Clubs of New Zealand.

Gemini XII made 59 earth orbits and was the forerunner of the Apollo flights. The spacecraft was manned by Command Pilot Captain James A. Lovell Jnr U.S.N. and the pilot Lt. Col. Edwin E. Aldrin Jnr U.S.A.F.  On three occasions during the orbits of the earth Edwin Aldrin left the capsule and floated in space beside the craft. He was attached to the capsule by a tether.

When NASA Came To TownThis exhibition consisting of the capsule, spacesuit, rations and instrument panels was made possible by the combined Lions Clubs of New Zealand who had been planning this project since August 1969. They obtained support from Norman Kirk, Prime Minister at the time, the American Embassy and the New Zealand Ambassador in Wellington. As part of the exhibition people were able to see the capsule which showed the blistered paint and heat stains which occurred as it seared down through the earth’s atmosphere to a soft ocean touchdown. The temperature on re-entry was 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.

While in Kawerau the premises of Lennie Morgan Motors hosted the exhibition where an estimated 2,500 people turned up to see it. In the six months the exhibition toured New Zealand  approximately quarter of a million people were estimated to have viewed it.

The Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum curated an exhibition in the Kawerau District Library foyer showing photos and promotional material from that day. It ran from August - November 2015.