Heinz History Center adds decades-spanning collection from Pittsburgh astronaut

click to enlarge Heinz History Center adds decades-spanning collection from Pittsburgh astronaut
Photo: Courtesy of Jay Apt, Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives, Heinz History Center
Jay Apt standing at a distance from the shuttle on the evening before the Apollo 11 launch on July 15, 1969.

Pittsburgh has produced a number of notable figures ranging from artists and playwrights to legendary athletes. The city even has an astronaut in Jerome “Jay” Apt, who flew on four space missions and logged more than 847 hours in space.
Now, the Heinz History Center is honoring Apt's incredible accomplishments with a new collection.

Presented as part of the museum's Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives, described on the Center's website as an effort to "collect, preserve, and make accessible the documentary history of Jews and Jewish communities of Western Pennsylvania," the new collection traces Apt’s childhood in Pittsburgh, his career at NASA, his best-selling book, Orbit: NASA Astronauts Photograph The Earth, and his stint as director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History from 1997 to 2000.

A press release calls it "an intimate look at what it takes to secure one of the most exclusive jobs in the world."

According to the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, Apt, who now teaches at CMU's Tepper School of Business, is Jewish and a member of Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Apt graduated from Shady Side Academy in 1967, and would later join NASA in 1980, working for its Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena and as a flight controller at Johnson Space Center before becoming an astronaut candidate. He served as an astronaut for over 12 years.

As of last week, the Apt collection is available online for public research and will mark the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Apt documented the launch of the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969, at Cape Canaveral, for Modern Rocketry magazine, a publication he helped found at Harvard University.

The press kit and press pass used by Apt, as well as his photos of the launch, are included in the “Destination Moon” section of the Center's long-term exhibition Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation.

Apollo 11 marked one way Apt used his position to document space travel. In 1996, National Geographic published his book Orbit, a collection of 170 images of Earth taken during various space missions.

Besides the Apollo 11 materials, other artifacts from the collection, including Apt's journals written during his solo trips to Alaska and overseas to Greenland, are now available to view online, along with the Historic Pittsburgh finding aid, and a new entry on the Jewish Encyclopedia of Western Pennsylvania.

Heinz History Center. 1212 Smallman St., Strip District. heinzhistorycenter.org