Last Updated on October 14, 2022 by Jeremy
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Finally, Pittsburgh has a space museum!
If you follow space news at all, odds are good that you know Pittsburgh's robotics companies are at the forefront of innovations for upcoming missions off-planet. One such company, Astrobotic in the North Side, is designing many new technologies that can be used for upcoming missions to the moon in particular.
To showcase their work and the goals of these missions at large, the company has opened a modest educational museum, aptly named the Moonshot Museum, at their North Side production facility in late 2022.
We got the chance to visit this one just before it opened to the public and share a bit more about what you can expect when visiting!
Astrobotic's Lunar Rover Shines at the Moonshot Museum
The moon has a special connection to space exploration. It is the only other planetary body man has set foot on to date, and missions are in the works where the moon will become a hub for activities with a dedicated colony that will act as a way station for subsequent missions to Mars and beyond.
For now, companies like Astrobotic are designing equipment that can deliver payloads to the moon plus lunar rovers that can conduct preliminary research on habitable sites, search for water, and so much more. These missions, which will be taking place very soon, are all highlighted in the museum's single-room space.
So, what do you learn about when visiting? To us, the Moonshot Museum feels like it can be split up into three key sections.
First, visitors to the museum can watch a pre-recorded video that sets the stage for everything you will see after. It introduces Astrobotic, the company's goals, upcoming missions, and why Pittsburgh is at the forefront of innovation for all things space- much like the city was for steel decades ago.
Second, you have the exhibits themselves. By our count, there were about a dozen main exhibits within the museum. These cover various topics such as landing sites on the moon (both past and upcoming), how Astrobotic's rover will operate, the challenges of finding water, recorded videos with employees about all things space exploration, and many more.
Most of the exhibits are interactive as well. You learn about moon landing sites by moving specially designed pieces around on a giant LED screen. Move a piece about past missions to a landing site illustrated on the moon, and a box pops up explaining the event at that particular location. Many of these exhibits are intended to be enjoyed by all, so kids can learn as well as adults; however, some exhibits may be suited more for older children if only because the material can be quite in-depth (but don't worry- other exhibits are friendly to younger space fans, too!).
Finally, and perhaps our favorite part of the entire museum, is the fact that you can look into Astrobotic's clean room production facility to watch the lunar rover being built in real-time!
During our visit, we watched a dozen or so employees assembling a piece of the rover, and it was fascinating to get a first-hand glimpse of this work that you would only see photos of in the paper or online. Whereas some companies may be private about their proprietary technology, it is fascinating to see a small part of Astrobotic's work firsthand like this!
As this museum element is likely not coordinated with visiting hours, how much activity you may see will likely vary. But whether employees are bustling in the clean room or rover parts are simply out on display, it is a rather unique element that helps bring home that Astrobotic, and Pittsburgh at large, is indeed going to the moon very soon!
Overall, while it should be reiterated that the Moonshot Museum is quite small (a visit can likely be completed in roughly 30 minutes), we are over the moon excited that this city finally has a space museum. Yes, it is primarily dedicated educate those on the work of Astrobotic in particular. And yes, for now it is all strictly about the moon. But guests will leave with an understanding of why technological development for the moon is so important for exploring the cosmos beyond.
We can't wait to see where they take us next!
Moonshot Museum at Astrobotic is located at 1016 N Lincoln Ave in the North Side. The entry to the parking lot is not the most obvious as of our most recent visit- Lincoln Ave is located between the Wendy's and McDonald's on Allegheny Avenue. We visited during a North Side preview event before the museum's grand opening in October 2022.