Last week a story made the rounds of various Internet news outlets about a very interesting–and astounding–discovery that was recently made in Ohio. A woman whose husband passed away about two years ago was cleaning out a closet and found what looked like an old gym bag in the back of the closet that had belonged to her husband. She suspected it contained some of his old work things. She unzipped the bag and discovered that she was right. This story sounds completely ordinary, even boring, until you realize that the woman was Carol Armstrong, the widow of NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the bag was full of tools that he had carried to the Moon on Apollo 11–and which are now priceless historical treasures!
Mrs. Armstrong called the National Air and Space Museum and let them see the contents of the bag. They carefully catalogued and photographed it, and put up a full report on their website, here. As you can see from that link, the contents of Neil’s bag are amazing. There are clamps, lights, mirrors, power cables, little thingies that fit on spacesuits and instrument panels, and most amazingly a movie camera–the selfsame one used to record historic film of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s landing at Tranquillity Base, on the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969.
I’ve done a couple of articles on this site about “hoards,” collections of ordinary objects that are hidden away and then discovered much later, with the intervening time and history transforming everyday items into priceless works of art and archeology. Most of these hoards are from the Middle Ages. The Armstrong discovery dates from barely less than 50 years ago, but I think it definitely qualifies as a “hoard”–and one of the most incredible ever found in recent times.
What possessed Neil to hide these items in the back of a closet for 43 years? He had to know they were priceless and would be of considerable national and historic interest if and when they were discovered. He also had to know they would be discovered, if not by Mrs. Armstrong, by someone else. We can never know. Neil Armstrong was famously private and retiring, even reclusive. He gave few interviews and shunned publicity, once suing a barber who sold a lock of his hair as a souvenir. Possibly he thought, having hauled this little white bag to the Moon and back, he was entitled to hang onto it for as long as possible. That’s reasonable, especially now that the artifacts can be catalogued and enjoyed in a museum by everyone.