The Grumman-built Apollo Lunar Module, or LM, was the first true spacecraft—designed to fly only in vacuum. The LM was a two-stage vehicle; the ascent and descent stages of the LM operated as a unit during descent to the Moon. Upon completion of lunar surface operations, the descent stage served as a platform for launching the ascent stage with the astronauts inside. The ascent stage then functioned as a single spacecraft for rendezvous and docking with the Command and Service Module (CSM). Once the astronauts exited to the CSM, the ascent stage was detached and left behind or deliberately crashed against the Moon.
The ascent stage was an irregularly shaped unit and housed a pair of astronauts in a pressurized crew compartment. It had an ingress-egress hatch in front and a docking hatch on top for connecting to the CSM. To save weight, there were no seats in the LM. Engineers also minimized the thickness of the metal sheets covering the structure—paper-thin in some places. Windows were made flat and as small as possible to reduce any weight added by heavy glass.
Of the original flown Lunar Modules built, none returned to Earth. Today, only a few test parts and three LMs from canceled missions exist. A number of models have been built, one of which hangs in The Museum of Flight. Constructed single-handedly by artist Steven Brower over a period of several years, this mock-up is the result of a research project.
In an attempt to relate to NASA's almost arbitrary decision to design the first true spacecraft from scratch, and to use any and all resources available, Brower sought to use only himself and his somewhat more modest resources to recreate the LM. His project involved having to learn and invent skills and techniques that he knew nothing about at the onset, but would represent a kindred, albeit miniature, achievement to that of the construction of the original LM. His research brought him close to people who actually worked on and researched the originals, as well as into the basements of museums and even to Grumman itself.