Columbia Handle, Apollo 11
t The command module , carrying the first men to walk on the
Columbia moon, splashed down on July 24, 1969. After a brief tour of U.S. cities,
Columbia found its forever home at the National Air and Space Museum.
But not all of the display module actually flew in space. The handles on the outside were removed in 1970 because they were made with little discs of radioactive promethium-147, enabling them to glow in case of emergency. This would be a little authentic for the safety of museum visitors, so
too the handles were replaced. Charles Barnes, a radiologic health officer at NASA’S Kennedy Space Center in Florida, offered to study the effects of the radioactive material over 10 years for free—if he could keep the handle afterward. When he put it up for auction in 2000, NASA and the Museum were surprised, but allowed the transaction to go through.
Steve Jurvetson says this is the only piece of the Apollo 11 command module outside the Smithsonian. When he tests it in the darkness of his office bathroom, it still glows.