One Giant Print

3D Print a Model of the Apollo 11 Command Module

Apollo 11 Command Module

The Smithsonian partnered with Autodesk to 3D scan the Apollo 11 command module “Columbia”, and have released 3D printable files online.

Forty-seven years ago, the astronauts of Apollo 11 landed on the moon. In a bid to make the anniversary more tangible, the Smithsonian Institution’s Digitization Program Office have released a 3D model of the Apollo 11 Command Module “Columbia” for 3D printing.

The 3D digitization program officers were tasked with creating the 3D scan — and they were in for a tough job. The project would require them to bring most of their lab to the site of the Columbia.

“We were asked about scanning the Apollo command module both inside and outside, and we gave an emphatic ‘Maybe’ to that question,” said officer Adam Metallo. “This is one of the most complicated objects we could possibly scan.”

You Can Scan the Apollo 11 Command Module, But Don’t Touch

The team was not allowed to actually enter or touch the object. Instead, they used cameras and laser scanners attached to mechanical arms to explore the interior. The Smithsonian even partnered with Autodesk to create custom scanning equipment; they also had to create new algorithms to properly combine all their different kinds of data.

But the huge undertaking was more than worth it. Just like the digitization officers, visitors, enthusiasts, and students have all been kept at arm’s length from the real symbolic module.

“Three-dimensional printing is a great way to engage kids by creating a replica of such an iconic object either in the classroom or at home,” said 3D program officer Vince Rossi.

Whether through an online virtual tour or a physical self-guided one, users can see exactly what the module looks like inside and out.

“They could look at old film and pictures, but now we have an opportunity to basically present to them an experience which is visually almost identical to if you were allowed to go in and lie down on one of those seats and look around,” says Rossi.

After eight days of scanning and ample time processing data and creating 3D models, Columbia has been immortalized for anyone with access to a computer and printer. Find them here.

Apollo 11 Command Module