Ohioan Neil Armstrong was treated to a hero’s welcome after he became the first man to walk on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. One of the treasures he received is a gold model of the Lunar Lander hand crafted by Cartier Jewelers. The model is now preserved in the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.
The race to send a manned flight to the moon began in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy declared that the United States would be “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth” before 1970. Armstrong commanded the Apollo II mission and was the first astronaut to step foot on the lunar surface. This achievement inspired the imagination and admiration of the nation and the world. Many have called the moon mission the crowning achievement of the twentieth century. Armstrong and his fellow Apollo II astronauts, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldren, Jr., were welcomed back to Earth to cheers from around the globe. An estimated 500 million people watched the event on television, making it the largest audience amassed to that day.
President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew honored each of the men with a presidential Medal of Freedom at a state dinner in August. Soon after, the astronauts launched a 45-day “Giant Leap” tour to 25 countries, including Great Britain and France.
The French newspaper, Le Figaro, presented three jeweled miniatures of the legendary Lunar Lander, The Eagle, to each of the astronauts. Tiny stairs, antennas, satellite dishes and finely detailed legs adorn the gimbal-mounted jet engine module. It is a replica of the innovative design that included a single downward-thrusting jet engine module accompanied by smaller motors for careful maneuvering to the lunar surface. A U.S. flag above the inscription “United States,” and a logo consisting of a quill and “F,” adorn the body on a plaque with the French “Les Lecteurs du Journal (The Readers of the Newspaper) / Le Figaro” and the name of each astronaut. Cartier’s insignia on cream silk is found within the red display case stamped in gold along with a concealed microfilm inside the Lander revealing the contributors to the gift.
Cartier is borrowing the Lunar Lander from the Ohio Historical Society for a traveling exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of Cartier in North America. The exhibit will display Neil Armstrong’s Lunar Lander along with 50 jewels and objects that highlight the Cartier history since 1909, when the jeweler first opened its doors in New York. The exhibition will take place within Cartier boutiques in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles this summer. The display of the Lunar Lander model is timely as the world commemorates the 40th anniversary of the moon landing in July.