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From Lab to LEM: Beckman Innovation and the New Frontier (ONLINE EXHIBIT)

April 23, 2023 - ONGOING

The objects, images, and documents in From Lab to LEM: Beckman Innovation and the New Frontier captured three decades of art, research, development, and achievement surrounding the United States' efforts to reach into the vastness of space and step onto the Moon. This online exhibition presents a history of twentieth century advances in space exploration highlighted by the visionary mid-century paintings of Neil E. Jacobe and groundbreaking instrumentation conceived of and manufactured by Beckman organization scientists and engineers.

The 30-plus selected pieces in the exhibition tell a story in three parts; first, envisioning a future with space exploration, then making that impossible dream into a reality, and finally, celebrating historic milestones. The artworks incorporate cutting-edge technology into colorful, dynamic scenes. The documents and images showcase period-specific choices in typography, fashion, and product design. Together they evoke the nostalgia of the Apollo-era and the spirit of creativity and inventiveness that led to humankind's great leap into space.

Online Exhibit Video and PDFs

The online exhibit is accessible below for viewing here, or on its host platform. Its mp4* file format was rendered in high definition (1080p). Sound runs throughout (“Cassini” music track) but can be muted, if needed. The viewer can also pause the presentation to allow for additional time reading object and photo interpretations. A progress bar near the bottom indicates the viewer's journey through 22 slides. Run time is just under 2.5 minutes.

Viewing tips: Enlarge the video to the size of the browser, or switch to the host platform and select HD.

*8/10/23 - Updated version features new font.

Except where noted, all objects, images, and documents depicted in the From Lab to LEM online exhibit were sourced from the Beckman Foundation Collection and are property of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. As such, they may not be copied, reproduced, used, stored, or sold without written permission.

Viewers can also access PDFs of the online exhibit slides in three parts using the following document links:

Selected Highlights

A few years ago, this would have been in the Buck Rogers realm, but today, with the help of Beckman equipment, man may soon exist in this strange new world.

Feedback, July 1964, vol. 7, no. 5
From Lab to LEM Slide 5.jpg
From Lab to LEM Slide 6.jpg

Beckman Instruments, Inc. is proud of its active role...paving the way to manned exploration of the lunar surface.

Beckman Bits, 1964, vol. 4, no. 1
From Lab to LEM Slide 10.jpg
From Lab to LEM Slide 12.jpg
From Lab to LEM Slide 13.jpg

...achievements made possible by the faith, vision, labors, and cumulative wisdom of mankind since creation.

President Richard Nixon honoring the Apollo 11 Lunar Flight, July 20, 1969
From Lab to LEM Slide 16.jpg
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When you're faced with the necessity to do something, that's a stimulus to invention.

Dr. Arnold O. Beckman

In-person Display

On Saturday, May 6, 2023*, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation will host the "Reaching for the Stars" booth at the Beckman Arts & Science Family Festival. A selection of objects from the online display will be available for in-person viewing from 11:30am-2:30pm. Join us for this FREE event on the plaza at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California., where there will be live performances, hands-on activities, food, and fun for the entire family.

*The date for this event has now passed, but you can still check out our festival photos below!

Coloring Fun for Kids

Introduce kids to the wonder of science and space exploration with three different themed posters for coloring. Learn how astronauts breathe, what stars are made of, what's in the dirt on Mars - and how Beckman innovation helped figure it all out.

Coloring Poster Graphic.png

Curator Q&A

Q: Why does this exhibit have a space theme?

A: The Foundation is the title sponsor of the upcoming Beckman Arts & Science Family Festival at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Their team shared with us some of the organizations that would be participating, and it seemed to us that there were going to be several space-themed elements. Knowing what a pivotal role Beckman innovation played throughout the history of space flight and exploration, we decided to curate an in-person display and a larger, online exhibit connecting Beckman with the space theme that seemed to be emerging, unofficially, for the event. The Foundation’s collection covers a lot of ground, so this was an opportunity to focus on a very specific part of that and bring it to the fore.

Q: What can viewers of the online exhibit expect? And visitors to the in-person display?

A: The online exhibit was comprised of 30-plus objects that spoke really well to the topic and embodied the spirit of possibility and potential that permeated the sixties, seventies, and eighties. We’ve told a story in three parts and used the objects to illustrate it. So, in the first part, we’ve shared artwork from Neil E. Jacobe, a painter with an incredible vision for the future of crewed spaceflight, and also objects from Beckman research and development that were created to provide solutions to NASA and to shine a spotlight on the company’s capabilities. In addition to their thoughtfully composed text, they were also designed with color schemes, fonts, and imagery that now seem synonymous with the time period. In the second part, we wanted to show the various ways that Beckman answered the call for new technology and equipment, so the exhibit was filled with actual instrumentation, commercial product photos, press releases, and even a photo from Ranger VII of the Moon’s surface that showed the progress they had made. In part three, we’ve touched down on the Moon, returned our astronauts back home safely, and were celebrating that triumph over the unknown so the exhibit featured objects from the White House commemoration of that: first issue postal stamps, NASA mission patches, invitations, menu cards, and event programs.

The in-person display is going to be at an outdoor event, so out of necessity we made it smaller and focused on what could safely travel and be shared in that environment with minimal risk – mostly the metal equipment, and some of the photos in preservation sleeves and containers, protected as much as possible from too much exposure to the sunlight.

Q: Were there any surprises as you researched this exhibit?

A: Yes! In our collection we had an image of a fully assembled piece of equipment, the Beckman Cardiovascular Reflex Monitor, and then we also had a physical component part – the round canister for the gas – which was on its own. It was great to be able to connect the two after the research revealed how the equipment worked. When astronauts went to space, they experienced weightlessness, and you can imagine what that meant for the blood flow in the body. How would they keep the blood circulating to lower extremities? The solution was to incorporate a piece of equipment into the spacesuit that could inflate and deflate the cuffs, to stimulate the blood flow. The round canister held the gas that was used to accomplish that, and the photo revealed what the assembled equipment looked like before it was installed in the space suit.

The second surprise came with the dinner menu for the White House celebration of the Apollo 11 mission, which was held in Los Angeles. The back of Dr. Beckman’s menu card was signed by everyone who was seated at the table with him and Mabel, so we were then able to research the names to learn more about who they were. There were three couples at the table in addition to the Beckmans: Betty Anne and Christopher Kraft (NASA Engineer), Ermalee and Walter J. Hickel (then-Governor of Alaska), and Frances and Edgar Bergen (Famed Ventriloquist and Entertainer).

Q: What do you hope people will take away from the exhibit From Lab to LEM?

A: The hope is that they will gain a better understanding of how Beckman innovation helped make crewed spaceflight possible. There were thousands of people and companies that collectively worked to make it a success – to get our astronauts to the Moon and back – and the Beckman story is an important one among them. Dr. Beckman built a company with top scientists and engineers who were dedicated to making durable equipment, customized to the job, and they knew that they could fulfill NASA’s needs. They researched and prepared reports and proposals, sent them unsolicited to NASA, were rewarded with multiple contracts, and then really delivered on them. From life support equipment to data systems and consoles, and more, space exploration became a reality in large part due to Beckman innovation, and the equipment and systems that were produced have been on every NASA mission since.

See objects from this exhibit in the following article:

Ray, Kaerie. “Curating Trios: Making a Big Impression with a Small Exhibit.” SCA Newsletter no. 187 (Summer 2023): 9-10.

Additional Resources

Learn more about Dr. Arnold O. Beckman, his inventions, and the history of Beckman innovation:

Learn more about the "Dinner of the Century" held in honor of the Apollo 11 Astronauts:

Learn more about the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), later renamed the Lunar Module (LM):

Learn more about NASA's Apollo 11 insignia and other Apollo Program mission patches:

  • Excerpt from compilation of materials sourced from Astronaut Mission Patches and Spacecraft Callsigns by Dick Lattimer, Space Patches From Mercury to the Space Shuttle; and various NASA documents