National Mining Museum and Hall of Fame hosts lunar exploration, mining exhibit

A NASA-sponsored exhibit on all things lunar at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is sure to please aspiring astronauts and earthbound sky gazers alike.

The exhibit, Expanding Boundaries, relates stories on the history of lunar exploration and information about what resources may one day be extracted from the moon and throughout the solar system. Pinpoints of an imagined night sky illuminate the ceiling, and a vision of moonscape cover the walls, making visitors feel like they’ve been transported to the moon’s surface.

Recordings of communications between mission control and astronauts from the Apollo 11 mission that landed Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon echo through the room. Visitors sometimes comment about remembering what it was like to hear those words for the first time on their radio or television decades ago.

In one corner of the room an interactive game allows visitors to maneuver a joystick and attempt a lunar landing using area maps and beacon signals. One wall displays an example of a Bushnell telescope, the likes of which have assisted many in watching the night sky.

A sleekly curved display case presents the museum’s meteor exhibit. Since meteors are pieces of material that have fallen to Earth from other places, studying them gives scientists insight into what kinds of materials are actually available in space. Many contain high-end iron and may provide opportunities for obtaining metals beyond our terrestrial reserves. Near the meteor specimens is another case that was designed to hold an actual moon rock that used to be on loan.

Another interactive display offers an opportunity to learn about moon myths from different cultures, theories about the moon’s origin, timelines for past and present moon exploration and lunar geology. And if all of this inspires young visitors, one final kiosk outlines possible careers at NASA, including ideas on the future of spaceflight.

The NASA exhibit is only part of the 25,000 square feet that the museum uses for display. Its mission is to foster an appreciation for mining. “Mostly, we want people to understand the importance of mining in their life,” explains Emma Reynolds, the museum’s educational programming events coordinator. “The products we use can seem so far removed from the actual raw materials. Our homes, our transportation and all the technology we use are built with minerals that were extracted from the ground. A lot of people will never think of that. If you don’t grow it, you mine it.”

The museum opened in 1977, with the first hall of fame inductions in 1988. The annual induction ceremony is one of the biggest events of the year for the industry.

Most of the museum’s revenue comes from admission fees, and there is a fundraising event each February. The museum offers special days during the year when children can enter the museum for free with an accompanying parent, and a recent workshop especially for girls was designed to encourage more interest of STEM school subjects among female students. “We look forward to being even more engaged with the community,” Reynolds said.

The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is open year-round at 120 W. Ninth St. in Leadville. To learn more about exhibits, hours of operation and admission prices, and to view a calendar of events, visit mininghalloffame.org.