'To the Moon: Snoopy Soars With NASA' touring exhibit makes Midwest debut at Elmhurst History Museum May 14

  • The Apollo 10 crew in their spacesuits, from left, Eugene Cernan, John Young, and Thomas Stafford, with the Saturn V rocket and Apollo 10 in the background.

    The Apollo 10 crew in their spacesuits, from left, Eugene Cernan, John Young, and Thomas Stafford, with the Saturn V rocket and Apollo 10 in the background. Courtesy of Courtesy of NASA

Updated 5/12/2021 12:13 PM

"I think having Snoopy go to the moon was the greatest triumph of all."

-- Charles M. Schulz, 1986


It is difficult to imagine -- although some will remember it well -- the excitement that the race for the moon invoked more than fifty years ago. As the tumultuous 1960s came to a close, America and the rest of the world waited with great anticipation to see if NASA could achieve President John F. Kennedy's challenge, put forth in May 1961, of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

But just before man took that first step on the moon, Charlie Brown and Snoopy soared through space with NASA's Apollo 10 mission in May of 1969. It was a great honor when the crew of Apollo 10 chose to nickname their command and lunar modules Charlie Brown and Snoopy, respectively.

The flight of Apollo 10 was an important "dress rehearsal" for the lunar landing that was scheduled for July 1969. Astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan piloted Snoopy within 50,000 feet of the lunar surface as they scouted the landing area for Apollo 11 while John Young orbited the moon in the command module Charlie Brown.

The historic Apollo 10 mission and the Peanuts characters' role in NASA's Manned Flight Safety Awareness program are explored in the exhibition, "To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA."

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A single panel "Peanuts" from March 13, 1969.
A single panel "Peanuts" from March 13, 1969. - Courtesy of Peanuts Worldwide LLC

Now a touring exhibit from the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., this popular show was recently updated to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing. It will make its Midwest debut May 14 to Aug. 29 at the Elmhurst History Museum, 120 E. Park Ave. in Elmhurst. To make a reservation, visit elmhursthistory.org or call (630) 833-1457.

Snoopy the astronaut

Charles Schulz's involvement with NASA began a year prior to the 1969 flight of Apollo 10 when he was approached by NASA with a request to use Snoopy as their safety mascot. The Silver Snoopy Award program was instituted to improve the safety record of NASA employees and contractors. It proved to be a huge success with the astronauts and employees and is a much-coveted award in the aerospace industry. Snoopy has been on the job for 50 plus years and continues to this day in his role as NASA's safety mascot.

A "Peanuts" strip from March 14, 1969.
A "Peanuts" strip from March 14, 1969. - Courtesy of Peanuts Worldwide LLC

In "To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA," visitors will follow Snoopy's voyage to the moon as depicted in the March 1969 Peanuts strip series (besting NASA's record by a few months) and learn about the Silver Snoopy Award program. The exhibit also features official NASA photographs, and reproductions of Schulz's original concept drawings of "Snoopy, The Astronaut."

NASA footage of the Apollo 10 mission, including excerpts from the documentary "In the Shadow of the Moon," will also be on display. Visitors can trace the history of space exploration and the space race through a timeline and see reproductions of NASA safety awareness posters and other memorabilia.

"To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA" is organized and toured by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, Santa Rosa, California. It is sponsored locally by Christopher Burke Engineering, Feze Roofing, Itasca Bank & Trust, Lakeside Bank, John Noldan/Guaranteed Rate and Suburban Bank & Trust.

On the lawn

In addition to the "To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA" exhibit inside the museum, the Elmhurst History Museum will expand the visitor experience outdoors to the museum's grounds. Starting in July through the end of August, a poster exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution's Traveling Exhibition Services will be on display on the museum's east lawn. "Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission" explores the spacecraft, technology, crew members, and memorable moments that led to "one giant leap for mankind" and changed the course of the space race forever.

On the north side of the Glos Mansion throughout the summer months, the public is invited to stop by to burn off energy and train for a mission on the International Space Station with the Astronaut Training Academy. These four stations simulate some of the same exercises NASA astronauts use to prepare themselves for zero gravity, stay in shape while in space, and rebuild their bodies after they return. The course is available at the user's own risk, and is wheelchair accessible and appropriate for all ages.

Space-themed programs

The Elmhurst History Museum will connect to themes in both exhibits by offering a variety of different programs for adults and families. Program links and reservation information is available at elmhursthistory.org/320/Programs.

• Sign up for a "Museum Maker Monday" program this summer when the museum will be open by reservation only for families with one-hour time slots available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants can explore the exhibits and take home a free space-themed activity kit including "Build a Command Module" (June 14), "Fizzy Flyer Rockets" (July 12) and "Phases of the Moon Flip Books" (Aug. 9). In addition, a "Lunar Cartooner Workshop" with professional cartoonist Mark Anderson will take place in two sessions on Saturday, July 17, for $5 per person. This program is appropriate for kids age 6 or older accompanied by an adult.

• The museum will present a slate of free online prerecorded lectures including "The Space Race" (starts June 13) and "Apollo 10: Dress Rehearsal for the Moon" (starts July 22), as well as a Zoom book discussion of "Summer of '69" by Elin Hilderbrand (Aug. 19). A free live concert takes place on Saturday, Aug. 7, on the museum lawn when the Chris White Duo presents two sessions of "Fly Me to the Moon: The Music of Vince Guaraldi." Reservations are required and BYO lawn chair requested.

• The museum has launched a new mobile app featuring tours and other activities. During the run of the "Snoopy Soars with NASA" exhibit, the app will include a family-friendly gallery activity to interact with the exhibit and kids can earn a prize for participating. Download the app from Google Play or Apple Store.

Museum hours are Sunday and Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, and limited free parking is available. Online reservations are required and can be made online at elmhursthistory.org before visiting. In alignment with the most recent State of Illinois COVID-19 mitigation efforts, visits are limited to one hour and five patrons per group. Face masks and at least six feet of social distance are required at all times in the galleries.

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