BRISTOL, VA. (WJHL) Where on Earth can you touch a piece of Mars and a piece of the moon with one hand?
Dr. William Hartel’s office in Bristol might be the only place in the world.
Inside Just for Grins Dental Care at 1941 Euclid Ave., patients will find a little more than expected for a dental office – the waiting room is outfitted with an arcade machine, mammoth fossils and a piece of the moon and a Martian meteorite inches a part from each other.
Hartel said he wanted his office to be something a little different when he opened it six months ago.
“I have so much of my space stuff at home in my closets and basement, this is about one-fifth of what I have,” he said. “It was kind of sad to leave it in the basement, I wanted to share it.”
Hartel transformed a spare room in his office as a space museum in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Through Friday, he’ll be giving out Moon Pies and special magnets of “Earthrise.”
The magnets are copies of Hartel’s own print of the famous photograph, personally signed by every American astronaut that’s walked on the moon.
“I’ve been a space fan since about 1965, I found my scrapbook in the basement and the first article I clipped was from 1965 of a satellite launch,” he said. “I was probably six years old.”
Hartel’s passion for space started young, nurtured by letters penned to astronauts and summers spent at space camp. He applied to be an astronaut after finishing dental school in 1985 but lacked enough flight hours to be accepted into the program.
That didn’t stop his interest, as he kept collecting memorabilia throughout the decades that he now shares with his patients and anyone who wants to learn more about space.
“I really wanted to share them with the community,” he said. ” I want to teach children about science, science is wonderful. I was a science nerd as a child, still am.”
While his museum is currently outfitted with newspaper clippings, meteorites and 19th-century books about space travel, he said he plans to change the scenery in the fall to display some of his baseball collection.
“I’ve just always had a lot of interests and this is just one that’s a passion,” he said of his space collection. “I’m very fortunate that I met all the guys who walked on the moon. Not many people can say that.”