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New Tucson exhibit spotlights Arizona’s place in space exploration

Arizona History Museum (Facebook photo/Arizona History Museum)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A new exhibit at the Arizona History Museum in Tucson aims to make sure the state’s place in the history of space flight is not forgotten.

“Ready to Launch: Arizona’s Place in Space” showcases how the Grand Canyon State helped create a path to the stars. It will be on display until Nov. 30 at the museum just west of the University of Arizona campus.

Shannon Fleischman, head museum curator for the Arizona Historical Society, oversaw the exhibit. She said people mostly think of Houston or Cape Canaveral, Florida, when it comes to places in the U.S. that foster space exploration, but Arizona’s place in the history of exploration is undeniable.

“Pluto was discovered here. We trained all of the Apollo astronauts. There are just so many things that are overlooked,” Fleischman told the Arizona Daily Star.

The exhibit includes plenty of relics such as a spacesuit worn by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on loan from NASA.

“We didn’t know which suit we were going to get until we opened the crate,” Fleischman said. “We just kind of lucked out that it was Buzz’s.”

Many of the items are from the university’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Arizona State University and the historical society’s collection. It addresses significant events like the use of space probes and telescopes to capturing the first image of a black hole.

It is divided into two rooms. One is devoted to coverage of crew missions and the other to unmanned missions.

Mark Kelly, a former astronaut turned senator, shared several of his own keepsakes like a training jumpsuit, flight helmet and logbooks containing his handwritten notes from various shuttle missions.

One of the logbooks happened to have a love letter to Kelly from his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. But nobody will get to read it, including museum staff, Fleischman said.

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