The National Aviation Hall of Fame
Neil Armstrong Outstanding Achievement Award
· • So Near... Yet So Far •·
Eugene A. Cernan
Lunar Module Pilot - Apollo 10, Commander - Apollo 17
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The National Aviation Hall of Fame 2016 Neil Armstrong Outstanding Achievement Award honoring Eugene A. "Gene" Cernan captures the moment when the Apollo 10 crew had successfully performed their primary mission in running the entire flight plan of Apollo 11, just short of descending to land upon the lunar surface.

As with our prior commission, we strove to make it be unique and specific to the person and their singular achievement. Gene was asked what he thought to be his outstanding achievement; replying that he was plucked from the ranks to be an Apollo Astronaut, where his colleagues in the Astronaut Office were all previous test pilots. This indeed is a unique event, but how to portray an ephemeral feeling in physical form in a sculpture?

It was in reading through the mission TAG voice transcription that the thunderclap happened again and the design revealed itself. The moment that the switch was thrown to jettison and ignite was the moment when Gene became one of the greatest test pilots ever. No one had done this before. Only a few would come after and it would never be quite like this.

The design depicts the moment following jettison of the LM Descent Stage, as the Ascent Stage climbs from 8.4 miles above the Lunar surface to rendezvous with the Command Service Module in Lunar orbit; thereby demonstrating that the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous flight plan concept did indeed work, paving the way for Apollo 11.

Great idea, but the design posed a serious problem. How to build a Lunar Module that has all of those many oddball faces in glass, have it come out looking right and not go crazy in the process. The only choice was to extract and create each individual surface and put them all together; just like the real LM; the building of which was pretty crazy in its own right.

Etched Glass Command Service Module Detail

The sculpture stands 15 inches tall. The standing diorama is three eights inch thick molded black iridescent and clear crystal supporting the 3.5 inch diameter glass Lunar Module Ascent Stage along with the .375 inch Descent Stage floating off in the distance to be injected into heliocentric orbit. The CSM at the pinnacle of the diorama is etched into both the front and reverse sides for added depth. The 11 by 8 inch by 1.5 inch thick oval cast glass Lunar surface base has large and small craters, rolling mountains and ejecta streaks.Glass Lunar Module Ascent Stage Detail

We chose metallic iridescent glasses for use in creating the many surfaces of LM-4. Most of them have a "wiggly" surface that portrays the thin aluminum and gold Kapton film used on the craft. The iridescence embodies the elation felt at that moment. The most bright are the windows; conveying the feeling of her occupants. LM-4 and her crew are celebrating.

The sculpture's title: So Near... Yet So Far distills the mixed feelings of having succeeded but, having travelled all this way, not being able to "go the last mile" and touch the ultimate goal. That would have to wait.

We are again honored to have been given the opportunity to create this award. We are both Artist-Engineers working primarily in the aerospace sector. My being a second generation pilot and having been in and around America's Space Program for decades, it gives me great pleasure to apply my energies, talents and heart to this task. Joy feels the same way. We both blow glass, but she is the person behind the molding, casting and etching aspects of our sculptures; an art unto itself. The LM "house of cards" construction that she was tasked with, each individual piece having to be cut and ground to fit, put her to the test. I provided the detailed surface map and direction, but she brought it all together and made it happen; succeeding admirably.

This is our first award for Gene. We are honored to be part of his legacy and members of your effort to honor aviators and developments in aspects of flight.

We both thank you for this opportunity to honor Gene and to create this award for you.

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