California Science Centre

This looks interesting…

California Science Centre

They are called clătite (type of very thin pancake). Auntie Lili taught me how to make them 🙂 We went together to the California Science Centre to see the Endeavour, where I got another stamp!

California Science Centre

OV-105 Endeavour Dates of Service: May 1992 to June 2011 Missions flown: 25 Time is space: 299 days Total orbits flown: 4,671
OV-105 Endeavour
Dates of Service: May 1992 to June 2011
Missions flown: 25
Time is space: 299 days
Total orbits flown: 4,671

Endeavour was the youngest member of the now retired space shuttle fleet. The orbiter was built as a replacement for the space shuttle Challenger which was lost in the January 1986 accident together with the seven-astronaut crew. Endeavour was the only shuttle to have been named by children. In 1988, NASA staged a national competition among elementary and secondary school students for a name for the new shuttle. The students were given some guidance, the name had to be based on a historic oceangoing research or exploration vessel. The space shuttle is named after the British HMS Endeavour, the first ship commanded by 18th century British explorer James Cook. On its maiden voyage in 1768, Cook sailed into the South Pacific and around Tahiti to observe the passage of Venus between the Earth and the Sun. During another leg of the journey, Cook discovered New Zealand, surveyed Australia and navigated the Great Barrier Reef. The space shuttle carried a piece of the original wood from Cook’s ship inside the cockpit. The name also honoured Endeavour, the Command Module of Apollo 15, which was also named after Cook’s ship.

OV-105 Endeavour Dates of Service: May 1992 to June 2011 Missions flown: 25 Time in space: 299 days Total orbits flown: 4,671
OV-105 Endeavour
Dates of Service: May 1992 to June 2011
Missions flown: 25
Time in space: 299 days
Total orbits flown: 4,671
Space Shuttle Endeavour Cockpit

The Space Shuttle Endeavour carried the crew that undertook the first repair and servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993 (STS-61). The International Space Station can date its birth to Endeavour’s STS-88 mission in December 1998. That flight took the first American component of the station – the Unity Node, the passageway that connects the working and living modules – to space and joined it to the Russian Zarya module which was already in orbit. On its final STS-134 mission, Endeavour made another significant contribution to the ISS, delivering the final big piece yet to be added to the station from the American side – the $1.5 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer physics experiment.

Endeavour docked to ISS during its last mission
Endeavour docked to ISS during its last mission

There is a tribute to the space shuttle Endeavour in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Centre at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. It features Endeavour soaring into orbit above the sailing vessel HMS Endeavour for which it was named. The Cupola, delivered to the International Space Station by Endeavour on STS-130, frames various images that represent the processing and execution of the Space Shuttle Program. Clockwise from top, are the first-ever use of a drag chute during the STS-49 landing, rollout to a launch pad, a ferry flight return to Kennedy, rolling into an orbiter processing facility, docking to the International Space Station, and lifting operations before being mated to an external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters in the Vehicle Assembly Building. The background image was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and signifies the first shuttle servicing mission, which was performed by Endeavour’s STS-61 crew. Another element of the background is a photograph of the STS-130 launch taken by James Vernacotola entitled “Waterway to Orbit”, which won honourable mention in a 2011 National Geographic photography contest. Crew-designed patches from Endeavour’s maiden voyage through its final mission are shown ascending toward the stars. Five orbiter tributes are on display in the firing room, representing Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Endeavour and Discovery.

Space Shuttle Endeavour Tribute
Space Shuttle Endeavour Tribute

Puffles and Honey admiring the five orbiter tributes in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Centre at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida 🙂

LCC, Firing Room 4
LCC, Firing Room 4

At California Science Centre there is a tribute wall to all Endeavour’s missions.

Endeavour's 25 Missions
Endeavour’s 25 Missions

Little Puffles and Honey got to sit on two of the tires that Endeavour used on its final flight, STS-134. Very smooth! 🙂

These tires flew into space on Endeavour's final flight, STS-134. The rubber is worn from the landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida
These tires flew into space on Endeavour’s final flight, STS-134. The rubber is worn from the landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida
Space Shuttle Main Engine
Space Shuttle Main Engine

Three main engines are used to launch a shuttle into orbit, along with help from a pair of solid-fuelled boosters that separate two minutes after launch. A space shuttle main engine burns at 3315 degrees Celsius, a temperature hot enough to boil iron!, but the outside of the nozzle remains cool to the touch. Prior to launch, sometimes it even frosts over. A number of advances had to be made to design a rocket engine that is more than 99.9 percent efficient, which means that almost all of its hydrogen and oxygen is used to create thrust. For comparison, an automobile engine is about a third as efficient, since most of its energy is created in the form of heat that does not turn the wheels. The advances did not come easily for designers who, working in the 1970s before computer-assisted design became commonplace, ran many of their calculations on slide rules and used judgments based on the experience they gained building massive engines for the Saturn V moon rocket.

The liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for the main engines is stored in the large, orange external tank, the only component of the space shuttle stack that is not reusable. When the main engines finished firing eight and a half minutes after launch, their work for the entire shuttle mission was done! At that point, the external tank that fed the propellants to the main engines detached from the orbiter and fell into the ocean. Because the propellants are hydrogen and oxygen, when they combust in the engine, the only exhaust is water.

Space Shuttle Main Engines Firing
Space Shuttle Main Engines Firing

The part that everyone sees at launch shooting flames and supersonic exhaust is the bell or nozzle. Although a lot is happening inside the nozzle, like gas exiting at 15,400 kph, it’s one of the least active parts of the machine during launch. The real action is taking place in front of the engine bell in a maze of hidden machinery called the powerhead. The nozzle allows the engine to gather the thrust, but the powerhead is what actually gives the thrust. The powerhead is home to four turbopumps, a robust computer controller and a network of ducts, wiring and valves designed to release 500,000 pounds of thrust without exploding. It is a marvel of engineering. If you don’t build the space shuttle engine right, anything above it is a waste of time and money because if you don’t build the engine right, you’re not getting into space.

Space Shuttle Main Engine Components
Space Shuttle Main Engine Components
Last Space Shuttle External Tank on Earth
Last Space Shuttle External Tank on Earth

At California Science Centre you can see the last flight-qualified External Tank in existence, ET-94. This lightweight tank (LWT) — donated to the Science Center by NASA — was ordered to support science missions for space shuttle Columbia. Because construction of super lightweight external tanks had already begun, ET-94 was referred to as a “deferred-build” tank. After Columbia was destroyed on its return back through the atmosphere following STS-107 in 2003, ET-94 was studied extensively to try to assess whether the “deferred-build” tank contributed to the accident in any way. Many pieces of foam were removed from the tank, which is why the tank will need some restoration before being put on display at the California Science Center.

With the addition of ET-94, the new California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center will be the only place in the world that people will be able to go to see a complete shuttle stack—orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket boosters — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.

Architectural Concept Model of the Shuttle Gallery at the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Centre
Architectural Concept Model of the Shuttle Gallery at the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Centre
Architectural Concept Model of the Shuttle Gallery at the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Centre
Architectural Concept Model of the Shuttle Gallery at the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Centre
Model replica of Shuttle Endeavour
Model replica of Shuttle Endeavour, Space Centre Houston
Space Shuttle Nose Cone (top of space shuttle assembly, on the nose of the External Tank)
Space Shuttle Nose Cone (top of space shuttle assembly, on the nose of the External Tank)

The nose cone sat at the very top of the space shuttle assembly, on the nose of the External Tank. Its pointy shape helped the ET slip more easily through the atmosphere on its way to orbit. The nose cone shielded sensors at the ET’s tip and held vents for the liquid oxygen tank — the topmost tank of the ET. When mounted to the ET, the nose cone featured an aluminum spike that served as a lightning rod for the shuttle during the first part of its trip to orbit.

External Tank Nose Cone. NASA Photograph
External Tank Nose Cone. NASA Photograph

The Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) operate in parallel with the main engines for the first two minutes of flight to provide the additional thrust needed for the orbiter to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth. At an altitude of approximately 45km, the boosters separate from the orbiter/external tank, descend on parachutes, and land in the Atlantic Ocean. They are recovered by ships, returned to land, and refurbished for reuse. The boosters also assist in guiding the entire vehicle during initial ascent.

In addition to the solid rocket motor, the booster contains the structural, thrust vector control, separation, recovery, and electrical and instrumentation subsystems. The solid rocket motor is the largest solid propellant motor ever developed for space flight and the first built to be used on a manned craft. The huge motor is composed of a segmented motor case loaded with solid propellants, an ignition system, a movable nozzle and the necessary instrumentation and integration hardware.

In a VAB high bay, an aft centre segment of a Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) is lowered toward an aft segment already secured to a Mobile Launch Platform. These segments are part of the right SRB for the Space Shuttle Return to Flight mission, STS-114. NASA Photograph
In a VAB high bay, an aft centre segment of a Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) is lowered toward an aft segment already secured to a Mobile Launch Platform. These segments are part of the right SRB for the Space Shuttle Return to Flight mission, STS-114. NASA Photograph

Each solid rocket motor contains more than 450,000 kg of propellant, which requires an extensive mixing and casting operation at a plant in Utah. The solid fuel is actually powdered aluminium – a form similar to the foil wraps in your kitchen! – mixed with oxygen provided by a chemical called ammonium perchlorate. The cross-section of the solid rocket propellant is a star shape that increases the burn surface area for more thrust at launch. The star shaped cross-section was used near the top of the rocket.

Cross-section of solid rocket propellant, National Air & Space Museum
Cross-section of solid rocket propellant, National Air & Space Museum

The space shuttle can withstand reentry temperatures up to 1260 degrees Celsius. Each shuttle is covered by more than 24,000 of the 15- by 15-cm blocks. Most of the tiles are made of silica fibres, which are produced from high-grade sand. Silica is an excellent insulator because it transports heat slowly. When the outer portion of a tile gets hot, the heat takes a long time to work its way down through the rest of the tile to the shuttle’s skin. The tiles keep the orbiter’s aluminium skin at 176 degrees Celsius or less. Tiles are too brittle to attach to the orbiter directly. The shuttle’s skin contracts slightly while in orbit, then expands during reentry. In addition, the stresses of launch and reentry cause the skin to flex and bend. Such motions could easily crack the tiles or shake them off. To keep them in place, the tiles are glued to flexible felt-like pads, then the pads are glued to the orbiter.

The primary tiles used are given one of two coatings. The tiles exposed to reentry temperatures of up to 1260 degrees Celsius, such as those on portions of the belly, are given a protective coating of black glass. Black tiles work by reflecting about 90 percent of the heat they’re exposed to back into the atmosphere, while the tiles’ interior absorbs the rest. The tiles’ interiors radiate absorbed heat so slowly that after landing, the tiles take hours to cool. On parts of the shuttle’s upper fuselage, which are exposed to much lower temperatures, the tiles are covered with a whitewash of silica compounds and aluminium oxide; these tiles protect against temperatures of up to 650 degrees Celsius.

Black tiles
Black tiles
SPACEHAB Logistics Module
SPACEHAB Logistics Module, donated by Astrotech Corporation.

Invented by aerospace engineer and entrepreneur Robert Citron, SPACEHAB was initially conceived as a way for tourists to travel into space aboard the shuttles. Though NASA didn’t allow SPACEHAB to be used for space tourism, SPACEHAB was the first payload component developed by a private business that humans could occupy in space.

When installed in the orbiter’s payload bay, the SPACEHAB Logistics Module (called the SPACEHAB) serves as a kind of astronauts’ workshop. SPACEHAB gave astronauts extra living space aboard the shuttle, as well as room to do science and store supplies and tools. A tunnel connected the pressurized SPACEHAB to the orbiter’s crew compartment, so astronauts could reach it — and work inside it — without putting on spacesuits. On some missions, two modules were flown together to make a SPACEHAB Logistics Double Module, providing more room for experiments and storage.

SPACEHAB modules flew on the shuttle 18 times, and the first and last SPACEHAB missions were flown on Endeavour. On many missions, NASA stocked SPACEHAB with equipment for delivery to Mir or the International Space Station. SPACEHAB also carried experiments for international space agencies, universities, and corporations, including experiments to test materials for improved contact lenses, develop better medicines to fight diseases, and produce crystals for use in advanced electronics. On Endeavour flight STS-77, SPACEHAB even carried an experiment intended to test the flavor and carbonation of Coca-Cola® in space. On Discovery flight STS-63, SPACEHAB carried Magellan T. Bear 🙂

SPACEHAB sits in Endeavour's payload bay as the orbiter is docked to the ISS on STS-118. The SPACEHAB module on display at the Science Center is the one pictured in this photo.
SPACEHAB sits in Endeavour’s payload bay as the orbiter is docked to the ISS on STS-118. The SPACEHAB module on display at the Science Center is the one pictured in this photo. NASA Photograph
Apollo Command Module - Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (actual)
Apollo Command Module – Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (actual)

The Apollo command module on display at the California Science Center was flown by American astronauts Tom Stafford, Deke Slayton and Vance Brand to rendezvous with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft parked in orbit around the Earth. Although built to fly to the moon as Apollo 18, its mission was changed when funding was cut for the Apollo program.

When Apollo and Soyuz docked together, it was the first time that the Soviet Union and United States had come together in orbit, and was the first international human space flight mission. This event was the beginning of a new partnership, turning the competition that had previously characterized the space race into cooperation.

One of the main objectives of this mission was to test rendezvous and docking systems. One obstacle to be overcome was that the atmospheric pressure and gas composition inside the Apollo command module differed from that used inside the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The American spacecraft used a pure oxygen environment at one-third atmospheric pressure (5 psi). The Soyuz used an 80-percent nitrogen 20-percent oxygen environment at a pressure of one full atmosphere (14.7 psi). In order to allow safe transfer between vehicles, the Russian and American engineering teams jointly created a docking module that was inserted between the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft.

View from Soyuz of Apollo CSM with docking adapter. NASA Photograph
View from Soyuz of Apollo CSM with docking adapter. NASA Photograph

Prior to docking with the Apollo command module (that was linked to the docking module) the Russian crew lowered their cabin atmospheric pressure from a full atmosphere to two-thirds atmosphere. After docking with the Soyuz, the American crew transferred from the Apollo spacecraft into the docking module and closed the hatch behind them. They added nitrogen to the pure oxygen environment which raised the pressure inside the docking module from one-third atmosphere to two-thirds atmosphere and resulted in a gaseous composition that matched the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The astronauts could then safely open the hatch between the docking module and the Soyuz.

The original space programs, Gemini and Mercury are also represented.

Gemini 11 Space Capsule (actual)
Gemini 11 Space Capsule (actual)

Gemini 11 took astronauts Dick Gordon and Pete Conrad into space, setting an altitude record of 1,400 kilometers. This Gemini mission gave us the first view of Earth as a sphere, and was also the first American flight to have a computer-controlled reentry.

Project Gemini bridged the gap between the Mercury program, the first project to put an astronaut in space, and the Apollo program, which landed humans on the moon. After two unmanned test flights in 1964, ten manned Gemini missions took place in 1965-66. Each of the manned missions had a two-man crew, which inspired the name of the project. Gemini is the name of the constellation containing twin stars, Castor and Pollux.

The main goals of the Gemini project were developed to match the tasks that might come up on a trip to the moon. The official objectives of the program were:
– To subject man and equipment to space flight up to two weeks in duration;
– To rendezvous and dock with orbiting vehicles and to maneuver the docked combination by using the target vehicle’s propulsion system;
– To perfect methods of entering the atmosphere and landing at a predetermined point on land;
– To gain additional information concerning the effects of weightlessness on crew members and to record the physiological reactions of crew members during long duration flights.

The design for the Gemini capsule grew out of the basic tried and tested design of the Mercury capsules. However, the complexity of the new project called for two astronauts and many technological advances. The Gemini capsule had to hold two astronauts for flights lasting as long as two weeks, compared to the longest Mercury flight of 34 hours and 20 minutes. In addition, the capsule had to offer accessible storage for food and scientific equipment, and had to be maneuverable both in space and during reentry so the capsule could dock with another spacecraft in orbit and land in a specific place. As a result, the Gemini capsule was launched with a service module that carried supplies and some life support. The Gemini capsule also featured thrusters around the nose of the capsule that made it possible for the astronauts to fly around a target.

During the Gemini 11 mission, astronauts Dick Gordon and Pete Conrad spent three days in space, practicing the skills needed for the Apollo moon missions and carrying out the twelve experiments on board. In the first orbit of Gemini 11, the astronauts docked the capsule with the Agena, another orbiting craft. The astronauts used the Agena’s propulsion system and fuel to boost the Gemini capsule into a higher orbit. Later in the flight, the astronauts undocked Gemini from Agena, and then tried to spin the two crafts which were then only connected by a tether line. The spinning experiment was designed to see if the rotation of the crafts could simulate a gravitational force.

Gordon also had two EVAs (Extravehicular Activities) during the mission, once on a 33-minute spacewalk and once standing in an open capsule hatch for about two hours. He used the time outside the capsule to take photos of Earth and the stars.

Mercury Redstone 2 Space Capsule (actual)
Mercury Redstone 2 Space Capsule (actual)

The flight of this Mercury-Redstone 2 tested the rocket, the capsule and the ability to work in space and return safely, in preparation for the first American astronaut’s journey into space. Mercury-Redstone 2 carried a chimpanzee named Ham and helped to confirm that humans could safely make the trip.

As part of the space race against the Soviet Union, the Project Mercury program (1958-1963) was designed to put an American astronaut into orbit around the Earth and return him safely. The program also tested how well humans could function in the unknown environment of space. But before humans could be sent out, NASA needed to make sure that they could be kept safe from micrometeoroids, radiation, noise, vibration, acceleration forces, microgravity and the vacuum of space. In addition, medical experts were unsure if humans could handle being isolated and confined in a space as small as the inside of the space capsule.

The Mercury-Redstone 2 flight tested the rocket and capsule, as well as the ability to work in space and return safely to Earth. Once the rocket and capsule design features selected for the Mercury missions were performing reliably, a chimpanzee named HAM was chosen from a colony of six “astrochimps” to test the environmental control systems inside the Mercury capsule. Researchers sent chimpanzees into space because chimps’ organ and skeletal structures are similar to ours, and chimps can be trained.

The MR-2 flight showed that HAM could concentrate and work in flight. Through launch, more than six minutes of weightlessness, and reentry, he moved levers in response to flashing lights, just as he had been taught in the laboratory. Ham’s response times in space were as good as on Earth. We’ll gloss right over the training techniques used.

Ham before the MR2 flight
Ham before the MR2 flight

And at least Ham came back to Earth alive. Laika did not.

Sputnik 1 Model
Sputnik 1, full scale model

Sputnik 1 was the first human-made object to orbit the Earth, the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957, shocking the world. Barely a month later, on 3 November 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2 on a one way trip with Laika, a quiet and charming dog (according to one of the Soviet doctors), on board. Technology hadn’t advanced as far as the return trip.

The success of HAM’s flight paved the way for the first American astronaut, Alan Shepherd, to go into sub-orbital space on May 5th, 1961. Another chimp, Enos, tested the first orbiting Mercury capsule on November 29th, 1961. On February 20th, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

After the MR-2 capsule returned from its trip to space, the Navy used it to practice helping a person out of the capsule and retrieving the capsule from the ocean. These practice missions helped the teams prepare for later Mercury missions, many of which were manned by human astronauts.

Space Telescope Uhuru, full scale model Launch date: 12 December 1970
Space Telescope Uhuru, full scale model
Launch date: 12 December 1970

Uhuru was the first telescope satellite in space that was completely devoted to X-ray astronomy.

The Uhuru actually contained two telescopes pointing in opposite directions, which gave the satellite the ability to scan the entire sky in search of X-ray sources. X-rays are given off by high-energy events in space. Prior to Uhuru’s launch, X-rays had been detected from our sun, and in 1962, an Aerobee rocket that had been launched to measure X-rays from the moon actually found bright X-rays from the stars instead!

Since X-rays can’t make it through the Earth’s atmosphere, Uhuru gave us the first look at several events in space that couldn’t be seen from Earth. For example, Uhuru delivered early hints that black holes exist, and also mapped X-ray sources such as binary star systems, remnants of supernovas, and galaxies. Uhuru also revealed X-ray pulsars and discovered diffuse X-ray emissions coming from galaxy clusters, which suggested that hot gas may be found between galaxies. Uhuru, which means “freedom” in Swahili, was launched from Kenya on December 12, 1970 — the 7th anniversary of Kenya’s independence — and stayed in service for three years.

Chandra Space Telescope Model 1:5 Launch date: July 23, 1999 Launch vehicle: Space Shuttle Columbia
Chandra Space Telescope Model 1:5
Launch date: July 23, 1999
Launch vehicle: Space Shuttle Columbia

The Chandra Space Telescope, an X-ray observatory, was the third in NASA’s collection of “Great Observatories” orbiting Earth. The Great Observatories were designed to send back detailed information about space.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is currently in orbit around Earth, peering out into the universe in search of extremely high-temperature events in space. These events give off X-rays, which are a highly energized form of light that cannot be seen by human eyes. X-rays can’t make it through the Earth’s atmosphere, so for astronomers to study them, X-ray telescopes like the Chandra must be based in space. The Chandra collects X-rays, some from as far as ten billion light years away, and uses a high resolution camera (HRC) to interpret them into images. The Chandra also contains scientific instruments that can measure the strength and temperature of X-rays.

Because X-rays would be absorbed right into the dish-shaped mirrors typically used in telescopes that measure visible light, the Chandra contains barrel-shaped mirrors with reflecting surfaces that run almost parallel to the X-rays. The X-rays barely bounce off the mirrors and are focused onto a point about half the width of a human hair, where they are recorded and measured.

X-ray telescopes are important because they allow us to see events in space that would normally be invisible to us. High-energy events such as huge explosions, black holes and neutron stars can be seen in much greater detail with an X-ray telescope, and X-ray telescope images can add an extra dimension to objects in space that also give off visible light.

The Chandra, which is named after Nobel prize winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, orbits up to 200 times higher above Earth than the Hubble — about a third of the distance to the moon!

Hubble Space Telescope Model 1:5 Launch date; April 24, 1990 Launch vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery
Hubble Space Telescope Model 1:5
Launch date: April 24, 1990
Launch vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

The Hubble Space Telescope is the best optical telescope currently in orbit around Earth. The Hubble was also the first scientific project in space that was designed to be serviced and upgraded on a regular basis by astronauts.

The Hubble is in orbit right now, making history by sending back around 10 to 15 gigabytes of images and data to astronomers every day. So far, the Hubble has examined over 25,000 features in space, including distant galaxies, black holes and nebulas where stars are born. The images sent back from the Hubble are beautifully amazing and give us a peek deep into the universe. But even more importantly, each new observation has the potential to support or contradict popular astronomical theories.

When the Hubble was launched, it had a slight defect in one of its mirrors, which meant that the first images sent back from the telescope were more blurry than expected. But since the Hubble was designed to be upgraded and serviced by astronauts, the first servicing mission, which took place in 1993 on space shuttle Endeavour, added some corrective lenses as well as a more powerful camera. Then the Hubble could send back views of the stars that were better than any ever seen from Earth — primarily because it was outside the Earth’s atmosphere, which distorts our view of space. (The atmosphere is what makes stars twinkle.)

Hubble Ultra Deep Field image released in 2014, which shows about 10,000 galaxies. NASA/ESA Photograph
Hubble Ultra Deep Field image released in 2014, which shows about 10,000 galaxies. NASA/ESA Photograph

One of the most amazing areas of research undertaken by Hubble scientists has been the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HDF) project. Because the HDF project examines objects billions of light years away, the light the Hubble captures is from events that happened billions of years ago. So when the Hubble captures images from far away into the deep universe, it’s also like looking back in time. Studies of the HDF images have uncovered many surprising new discoveries, such as the occurrence of a “stellar baby boom” shortly after the Big Bang which peaked around three billion years later. Most of the stars that exist today were born during this stellar population explosion. The HDF research has also supported the theory that the universe looks the same in all directions.

In addition to the things we have learned from the Hubble about the nature of deep space and the history and development of the universe, we have also found out more about our own cosmic neighborhood. The Hubble data revealed the existence of oxygen on Europa. Plus, the Hubble relayed photos of a volcanic eruption from Io, spotted storms on Neptune, Jupiter and Mars, captured images of Saturn and Jupiter’s auroras and even gave a weather report for the Pathfinder landing on Mars. Outside our galaxy, the Hubble data confirmed the existence of black holes and sent back data on the phenomena of star death, quasars and more. Images from the Hubble have also revealed that flat disks of dust and gases, thought to be possible precursors to planet formation, encircle many developing stars.

It’s all gone!

California Science Centre

It was yummy! And you were busy 🙂

California Science Centre

I better make some more…

California Science Centre

National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall

Milk and cookies! Yummy!

National Air & Space Museum

This is the Apollo 11 Command Module! We saw it at the museum!

National Air & Space Museum

Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia
Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia

It says here that the Command Module was the living quarters for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins during their 8-day journey to the moon in July 1969. It has an interior of just 6 cubic metres – a little less than the inside of a compact car. It may have felt roomy to Michael Collins, once his two colleagues departed for the lunar surface, leaving him to orbit alone in the Columbia for almost 24 hours. In his book Carrying the Fire, Collins recalls the feeling of solitude: “Radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it.”

Thanks to recent efforts by the Smithsonian’s 3D Digitization Program, we now know what the three men wrote on the walls in that cramped space. The digitization project uses cameras and software that capture information without requiring a person to enter – and potentially damage – the space craft. Once the 3D model of Columbia is completed, anyone with access to a 3D printer will be able to download and print his own copy of the artefact.

Mummeeee! We need a 3D printer! I wonder if we can make our own copy of the 1903 Wright Flyer. We saw that at the museum, but it didn’t come with any stamps!

National Air & Space Museum

1903 Wright Flyer
1903 Wright Flyer

The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world’s first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine. The Wright Flyer was the product of a sophisticated four-year program of research and development conducted by Wilbur and Orville Wright beginning in 1899. After building and testing three full-sized gliders, the Wrights’ first powered airplane flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, making a 12-second flight, traveling 36m, with Orville piloting. The best flight of the day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6m in 59 seconds.

From the first flight in 1903 to landing on the moon in 1969 it was an amazing achievement. Since then the world has changed, and the future does not seem to hold quite the same possibilities as it once did.

The Wrights pioneered many of the basic tenets and techniques of modern aeronautical engineering, such as the use of a wind tunnel and flight testing as design tools. Their seminal accomplishment encompassed not only the breakthrough first flight of an airplane, but also the equally important achievement of establishing the foundation of aeronautical engineering.

The Wright brothers had a passing interest in flight as youngsters. In 1878 their father gave them a toy flying helicopter model powered by strands of twisted rubber. They played and experimented with it extensively and even built several larger copies of the device. They also had some experience with kites. But not until 1896, prompted by the widely publicized fatal crash of famed glider pioneer Otto Lilienthal, did the Wrights begin serious study of flight. After absorbing what materials related to the subject the brothers had available locally, Wilbur wrote to the Smithsonian Institution on May 30, 1899, requesting any publications on aeronautics that it could offer.

Shortly after their receipt of the Smithsonian materials, the Wrights built their first aeronautical craft, a five-foot-wingspan biplane kite, in the summer of 1899. The Wrights chose to follow Lilienthal’s lead of using gliders as a stepping stone towards a practical powered airplane. The 1899 kite was built as a preliminary test device to establish the viability of the control system that they planned to use in their first full-size glider. This means of control would be a central feature of the later successful powered airplane.

Rather than controlling the craft by altering the centre of gravity by shifting the pilot’s body weight as Lilienthal had done, the Wrights intended to balance their glider aerodynamically. They reasoned that if a wing generates lift when presented to an oncoming flow of air, producing differing amounts of lift on either end of the wing would cause one side to rise more than the other, which in turn would bank the entire aircraft. A mechanical means of inducing this differential lift would provide the pilot with effective lateral control of the airplane. The Wrights accomplished this by twisting, or warping, the tips of the wings in opposite directions via a series of lines attached to the outer edges of the wings that were manipulated by the pilot. The idea advanced aeronautical experimentation significantly because it provided an effective method of controlling an airplane in three-dimensional space and, because it was aerodynamically based, it did not limit the size of the aircraft as shifting body weight obviously did. The satisfactory performance of the 1899 kite demonstrated the practicality of the wing warping control system.

1903 Wright Flyer
1903 Wright Flyer

Encouraged by the success of their small wing warping kite, the brothers built and flew two full-size piloted gliders in 1900 and 1901. Beyond the issue of control, the Wrights had to grapple with developing an efficient airfoil shape and solving fundamental problems of structural design. Like the kite, these gliders were biplanes. For control of climb and descent, the gliders had forward-mounted horizontal stabilizers. Neither craft had a tail. The Wrights’ home of Dayton, Ohio, did not offer suitable conditions for flying the gliders. An inquiry with the US Weather Bureau identified Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with its sandy, wide-open spaces and strong, steady winds as an optimal test site. In September 1900, the Wrights made their first trip to the little fishing hamlet that they would make world famous.

Although the control system worked well and the structural design of the craft was sound, the lift of the gliders was substantially less than the Wrights’ earlier calculations had predicted. They began to question seriously the aerodynamic data that they had used. Now at a critical juncture, Wilbur and Orville decided to conduct an extensive series of tests of wing shapes. They built a small wind tunnel in the fall of 1901 to gather a body of accurate aerodynamic data with which to design their next glider. The heart of the Wright wind tunnel was the ingeniously designed pair of test instruments that were mounted inside. These measured coefficients of lift and drag on small model wing shapes, the terms in the equations for calculating lift and drag about which the brothers were in doubt.

The Wrights’ third glider, built in 1902 based on the wind tunnel experiments, was a dramatic success. The lift problems were solved, and with a few refinements to the control system (the key one being a movable vertical tail), they were able to make numerous extended controlled glides. They made between seven hundred and one thousand flights in 1902. The single best one was 191.5m in 26 seconds. The brothers were now convinced that they stood at the threshold of realizing mechanical flight.

During the spring and summer of 1903 they built their first powered airplane. Essentially a larger and sturdier version of the 1902 glider, the only fundamentally new component of the 1903 aircraft was the propulsion system. With the assistance of their bicycle shop mechanic, Charles Taylor, the Wrights built a small, twelve-horsepower gasoline engine. While the engine was a significant enough achievement, the genuinely innovative feature of the propulsion system was the propellers. The brothers conceived the propellers as rotary wings, producing a horizontal thrust force aerodynamically. By turning an airfoil section on its side and spinning it to create an air flow over the surface, the Wrights reasoned that a horizontal “lift” force would be generated that would propel the airplane forward. The concept was one of the most original and creative aspects of the Wrights’ aeronautical work. The 1903 airplane was fitted with two propellers mounted behind the wings and connected to the engine, centrally located on the bottom wing, via a chain-and-sprocket transmission system.

By the fall of 1903, the powered airplane was ready for trial. A number of problems with the engine transmission system delayed the first flight attempt until mid-December. After winning the toss of a coin to determine which brother would make the first try, Wilbur took the pilot’s position and made an unsuccessful attempt on December 14, damaging the Flyer slightly. Repairs were completed for a second attempt on December 17. It was now Orville’s turn. At 10:35am the Flyer lifted off the beach at Kitty Hawk for a 12-second flight, traveling 36m. Three more flights were made that morning, the brothers alternating as pilot. The second and third were in the range of two hundred feet. With Wilbur at the controls, the fourth and last flight covered 255.6m in 59 seconds. With this final long, sustained effort, there was no question the Wrights had flown.

The 1903 Wright Flyer rests atop the "Grand Junction Railroad", ready for flight
The 1903 Wright Flyer rests atop the “Grand Junction Railroad”, ready for flight
1903 Wright Flyer First Flight, Kitty Hawk, NC With Orville Wright at the controls and Wilbur Wright mid-stride, right, the 1903 Wright Flyer makes its first flight at Kitty Hawk, NC, 17 December, 1903
1903 Wright Flyer First Flight, Kitty Hawk, NC
With Orville Wright at the controls and Wilbur Wright mid-stride, right, the 1903 Wright Flyer makes its first flight at Kitty Hawk, NC, 17 December, 1903

As the brothers and the others present discussed the long flight, a gust of wind overturned the Wright Flyer and sent it tumbling across the sand. The aircraft was severely damaged and never flown again. But the Wrights had achieved what they had set out to do. They had successfully demonstrated their design for a heavier-than-air flying machine. They built refined versions of the Flyer in 1904 and 1905, bringing the design to practicality. On October 5, 1905, with the brothers’ third powered airplane, Wilbur made a spectacular 39-minute flight that covered 39.2km over a closed course.

After the first powered Flyer of 1903 took its destructive tumble at Kitty Hawk, the Wrights crated it and shipped it back to Dayton where it remained in storage in a shed behind their bicycle shop, untouched for more than a decade. In March 1913, Dayton was hit by a serious flood, during which the boxes containing the Flyer were submerged in water and mud for eleven days. The airplane was uncrated, for the first time since Kitty Hawk, in the summer of 1916, when Orville repaired and reassembled the airplane for brief exhibition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Several other brief displays followed. It was exhibited at the New York Aero Show in 1917, at a Society of Automotive Engineers meeting in Dayton in 1918, at the New York Aero Show in 1919, and at the National Air Races in Dayton in 1924. On each of these occasions the Wright Flyer was prepared and assembled for exhibition by a Wright Company mechanic named Jim Jacobs, working under the supervision of Orville.

In 1928 the airplane was placed on loan to the Science Museum in London. Before shipping it to Europe, Orville and Jim Jacobs refurbished the Flyer extensively. The fabric covering was replaced completely with new material, although it was of the same type as the original “Pride of the West” muslin. The remaining 1903 fabric that was on the airplane when it flew was saved and portions of it still exist in various places. During World War II, the airplane was kept in an underground storage facility near the village of Corsham, approximately 160km from London, where various British national treasures were secured. The Flyer was not stored in the London subway as has been often asserted. The airplane was returned to the United States in 1948 and formally donated to the Smithsonian Institution in an elaborate ceremony on December 17, the 45th anniversary of the flights, and it has been on public display there ever since.

The Flyer received some minor repairs and cleaning in 1976 just before being moved into the Smithsonian’s then new National Air and Space Museum building. In 1985, the airplane was given its first major treatment since preparing it for loan to the Science Museum in late 1926 and early 1927. It was completely disassembled, the parts thoroughly cleaned and preserved, and all new fabric covering applied. A careful search was made to locate new fabric that matched the original as closely as possible. When the fabric was replaced in 1927, it was sewn on in a slightly different way than originally done by the brothers in 1903. When stitching the new fabric in 1985, a large section of original flown 1903 wing covering was available and used as a pattern, ensuring the accuracy of the 1985 restoration.

SpaceShipOne
SpaceShipOne

With SpaceShipOne, private enterprise crossed the threshold into human spaceflight, previously the domain of government programs. The SpaceShipOne team aimed for a simple, robust, and reliable vehicle design that could make affordable space travel and tourism possible. SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for repeated flights in a privately developed reusable spacecraft, the Collier Trophy for greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in 2004, and the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement.

Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen funded SpaceShipOne, and Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites designed and built it. Launched from its White Knight mothership, the rocket-powered SpaceShipOne and its pilot ascended just beyond the atmosphere, arced through space (but not into orbit), then glided safely back to Earth. The flight lasted 24 minutes, with 3 minutes of weightlessness. SpaceShipOne had three record-setting flights, two by Mike Melvill and one by Brian Binnie, all in 2004. The success of SpaceShipOne inspired the creation of Virgin Galactic, a company founded to add private suborbital tourist flights to the existing world of commercial spaceflight business. It also helped clear the way for NASA’s public-private partnerships to develop new spacecraft to carry crews and cargo.

Spirit of St Louis
Spirit of St Louis

In 1922, after a year and a half at the University of Wisconsin, Lindbergh left to study aeronautics with the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation. He was a ‘barnstormer” until 1924, when he enrolled as a flying cadet in the Army Air Service. He won his reserve commission and began serving as a civilian airmail pilot, flying the route between St. Louis and Chicago.

Early in 1927 he obtained the backing of several St. Louis men to compete for the $25,000 prize offered by Raymond Orteig in 1919 for the first nonstop flight between New York City and Paris. In February of that year Lindbergh placed an order with Ryan Airlines in San Diego for an aircraft with specifications necessary to make the flight.

Development began based on a standard Ryan M-2, with Donald A. Hall as principal designer. Certain modifications to the basic high-wing, strut-braced monoplane design had to be made because of the nature of the flight. The wingspan was increased by 10 feet and the structural members of the fuselage and wing cellule were redesigned to accommodate the greater fuel load. Plywood was fitted along the leading edge of the wings. The fuselage design followed that of a standard M-2 except that it was lengthened 2 feet. The cockpit was moved further to the rear for safety and the engine was moved forward for balance, thus permitting the fuel tank to be installed at the center of gravity. The pilot could see forward only by means of a periscope or by turning the aircraft to look out of a side window. A Wright Whirlwind J-5C engine supplied the power.

Charles Lindbergh (in fedora) and a mechanic check out the Spirit of St. Louis’ engine circa 1927. (Library of Congress)
Charles Lindbergh (in fedora) and a mechanic check out the Spirit of St. Louis’ engine circa 1927. (Library of Congress)

Late in April 1927 the work on the aircraft was completed. It was painted silver and carried registration number N-X-21 1, which, with all other lettering on the plane, was painted in black. Lindbergh made several test flights, and then flew the aircraft from San Diego to New York on May 10—12, making only one stop, at St. Louis. His flight time of 21 hours, 40 minutes set a new transcontinental record.

After waiting several days in New York for favorable weather, Lindbergh took off for Paris alone, on the morning of May 20, 1927. Thirty-three hours, 30 minutes, and 3,610 miles later he landed safely at Le Bourget Field, near Paris, where he was greeted by a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 100,000.

Lindbergh and the Spirit of St Louis returned to the United States aboard the USS Memphis on June 11. He received tumultuous welcomes in Washington, DC and New York City. From July 20 until October 23 of that year he took the famous plane on a tour of the United States. Then, on December 13, he and the Spirit of St. Louis flew nonstop from Washington to Mexico City; through Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico; and nonstop from Havana to St. Louis. Beginning in Mexico City, flags of the countries he visited were painted on both sides of the cowling.

Nose of the Spirit of St Louis
Nose of the Spirit of St Louis
Amelia Earhart's Lockheed 5B Vega
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed 5B Vega

Amelia Earhart is probably the most famous female pilot in aviation history, an accolade due both to her aviation career and to her mysterious disappearance. On May 20-21, 1932, Earhart became the first woman, and the second person after Charles Lindbergh, to fly nonstop and solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Flying a red Lockheed Vega 5B, she left Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, and landed about 15 hours later near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The feat made Earhart an instant worldwide sensation and proved she was a courageous and able pilot. Then, on August 24-25, she made the first solo, nonstop flight by a woman across the United States, from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, establishing a women’s record of 19 hours and 5 minutes and setting a women’s distance record of 2,447 miles.

Born in Atchison, Kansas, on July 24, 1897, Amelia Earhart displayed an independent style from childhood, including keeping a scrapbook on accomplished women, taking an auto repair course, and attending college (but never graduating). She attended her first flying exhibition in 1918 while serving as a Red Cross nurse’s aide in Toronto, Canada. She took her first flight in California in December 1920, with veteran flyer Frank Hawks, and declared, “As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly.” Her first instructor was Anita “Neta” Snook who gave her lessons in a Curtiss Jenny. To pay for flight lessons, Earhart worked as a telephone company clerk and photographer. Earhart soloed in 1921, bought her first airplane, a Kinner Airster, in 1922 and wasted no time in setting a women’s altitude record of 14,000 feet. In 1923, Earhart became the 16th woman to receive an official Fédération Aéronautique Internationale pilot license.

Earhart moved to east to be near her sister and mother, and, after a second year at Columbia University in New York City, began working in Boston at the Denison Settlement House as a social worker with immigrant families. In the spring of 1928, she was flying at Dennison Airport, and had joined the local National Aeronautic Association, when she was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger.

Amy Phipps Guest owned the Fokker F.VII Friendship and wanted to make the flight but when her family objected, she asked aviator Richard Byrd and publisher/publicist George Putnam to find “the right sort of girl” for the trip. On June 17, 1928, Earhart and pilots Wilmer Stultz and Lou Gordon departed Trepassey, Newfoundland and, though promised time at the controls of the tri-motor, she was never given the opportunity to fly the aircraft during the 20-hour 40-minute flight to Burry Point, Wales. She did get in the pilot’s seat for a time on the final hop to Southampton, England.

The dramatic 1928 flight brought her international attention and the opportunity to earn a living in aviation. Putnam became her manager and she began lecturing and writing on aviation around the country. In August of 1929, she placed third in the All-Women’s Air Derby, behind Louise Thaden and Gladys O’Donnell, which was the first transcontinental air race for women (from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio) and a race she helped organize. This race, closely followed by the press and by the public who flocked to the stops along the way, proved that women could fly in rugged and competitive conditions.

A few months after the Derby, a group of women pilots decided to form an organization for social, recruitment, and business purposes. Ninety-nine women, out of 285 licensed US female pilots, became charter members, inspiring the organization’s name, The Ninety-Nines (99s); Earhart became their first president. Female pilots were keenly aware of the lack of social and economic independence for all women and were determined to help one another.

In 1930, after only 15 minutes of instruction, Earhart became the first woman to fly an autogiro, made by Pitcairn and featuring rotating blades to increase lift and allow short takeoffs and landings. Earhart set the first autogiro altitude record and made two autogiro cross-country tours, which were marked by three public “crack-ups”, as she called them. Though Earhart was the most famous woman pilot, she was not the most skilled.

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega 5B
Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B

Determined to prove herself, Earhart decided to fly the Atlantic Ocean again, but this time alone. She thought a transatlantic flight would bring her respect, something other women sought, too – Ruth Nichols made an attempt in 1931, crashing in Canada, but she was planning another attempt when Earhart succeeded. During her 2,026-mile nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1932, Earhart fought fatigue, a leaky fuel tank, and a cracked manifold that spewed flames out the side of the engine cowling. Ice formed on the Vega’s wings and caused an unstoppable 3,000-foot descent to just above the waves. Realizing she was on a course far north of France, she landed in a farmer’s field in Culmore, near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Acclaimed in London, Paris and Rome, she returned home to a ticker tape parade in New York City and honors in Washington, DC. By July and August she was back in the Vega for her transcontinental flight.

On January 11-12, 1935, Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the US mainland, this time in a Lockheed 5C Vega. Although some called it a publicity stunt for Earhart and Hawaiian sugar plantation promoters, it was a dangerous 2,408-mile flight that had already claimed several lives. Of that flight she remarked: “I wanted the flight just to contribute. I could only hope one more passage across that part of the Pacific would mark a little more clearly the pathway over which an air service of the future will inevitably ply.” Later that year, Earhart made record flights from Los Angeles to Mexico City and from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey. She also placed fifth in the 1935 Bendix Race. Earhart was a two-time Harmon Trophy winner and was also the recipient of the US Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1935, Earhart became a visiting professor at Purdue University at the invitation of Purdue president Edward Elliott, an advocate of higher education for women, especially in engineering and science. Earhart, a former premedical student, served as a counselor for women and a lecturer in aeronautics. Elliott was also interested in supporting Earhart’s flying career and convinced Purdue benefactors to purchase a twin-engine Lockheed 10-E Electra for her. Many companies contributed their latest aviation technology to her Flying Laboratory.

Earhart decided to make a world flight and she planned a route as close to the equator as possible, which meant flying several long overwater legs to islands in the Pacific Ocean. On March 20, 1937, Earhart crashed on takeoff at Luke Field, Honolulu, Hawaii, ending her westbound world flight that had begun at Oakland, California. The Electra was returned to Lockheed Aircraft Company in Burbank, California, for extensive repairs. On June 1, 1937, Earhart began an eastbound around-the-world flight from Oakland, via Miami, Florida, in the Electra with Fred Noonan as her navigator. They reached Lae, New Guinea on June 29, having flown 22,000 miles with 7,000 more to go to Oakland. They then departed Lae on July 2 for the 2,556-mile flight to their next refueling stop, Howland Island, a two-mile long and less-than-a-mile wide dot in the Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, Earhart and the US Coast Guard cutter Itasca, anchored off shore of Howland, could not complete any direct two-way radio communication and neither Earhart nor Noonan were competent at Morse Code. However, the Itasca did receive several strong voice transmissions from Earhart as she approached the area, the last at 8:43am stating: “We are on the line of position 156-137. Will repeat message. We will repeat this message on 6210 kilocycles. Wait. Listening on 6210 kilocycles. We are running north and south.” Earhart and Noonan never found Howland and they were declared lost at sea on July 19, 1937 following a massive sea and air search.

Earhart’s disappearance spawned countless theories involving radio problems, poor communication, navigation or pilot skills, other landing sites, spy missions and imprisonment, and even living quietly in New Jersey or on a rubber plantation in the Philippines. The most reasonable explanation, based on the known facts of her flight, is that they were unable to locate Howland Island, ran out of fuel, and ditched into the Pacific Ocean.

Earhart’s disappearance remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century, and it often overshadows her true legacies as a courageous and dedicated aviator and as an enduring inspiration to women.

Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 from Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-31 mission. It is the largest astronomical telescope ever sent into space. It will be joined by James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, which will be 100 times more potent than Hubble, but it will have big shoes to fill!

From its vantage point high above Earth’s obscuring atmosphere, the telescope is providing astronomers with fascinating new information on the state of the universe. Astronomers are astounded at the Hubble Space Telescope’s recent observation of the farthest galaxy ever seen – one dating back 13.4 billion years, to just 400 million years after the Big Bang. Scientists thought they would have to wait until the James Webb Space Telescope starts operations to see this far back.

The distant galaxy was 25 times smaller than the Milky Way 13.4 billion years ago, but it expanding fast, forming stars at a rate about 20 times faster than the Milky Way does today.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured the distance to the farthest galaxy ever seen -- Galaxy GN-z11. The galaxy is in the inset.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured the distance to the farthest galaxy ever seen – Galaxy GN-z11. The galaxy is in the inset.

The Hubble Space Telescope was designed to be delivered into orbit by the Space Shuttle and to be serviced periodically in space by Shuttle astronauts. The first servicing and repair mission was conducted in 1993 by the crew of STS-61 on Space Shuttle Endeavour.

The first servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope saw astronauts install a set of specialized lenses to correct the flawed main mirror in the telescope. NASA Photograph
The first servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope saw astronauts install a set of specialized lenses to correct the flawed main mirror in the telescope. NASA Photograph

Soon after the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, images and data from its instruments revealed that its main mirror was optically flawed. It suffered from spherical aberration — not all portions of the mirror focused to the same point. The mirror’s shape was off by less than 1/50th the thickness of a human hair, but this tiny flaw proved devastating to the quality of the Hubble’s images and to the efficiency of all of its instruments.

This was a serious, but not fatal flaw. If the Hubble was like all other astronomical instruments lofted into orbit on rockets, it would have had to live out its operational life with that flaw, working at a fraction of peak efficiency. But Hubble was not like any other space telescope. It was designed to be serviced by astronauts visiting it on the space shuttle. That’s one reason why it was placed in a low earth orbit accessible by the shuttle.

The question now became, how could corrections be made? One option involved bringing it back to Earth and replacing the mirror with a backup (now on view in the museum). But NASA, encouraged by the expertise at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and the Ball Aerospace Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, chose a different approach. One instrument, the Wide-Field/Planetary Camera (WF/PC), already had an upgraded replacement available. Its engineering and science team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory knew how to adjust the optics within WFPC2 to compensate for the aberration in the primary mirror. For the other instruments, engineers created an optical box called COSTAR (Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement). It contained a set of five pairs of small mirrors on deployable arms that corrected the light beams entering the Hubble’s Faint Object Camera, Faint Object Spectrograph, and Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph. Fitted within a standard axial instrument enclosure, the small mirrors would deploy after launch and checkout, enter the reflected optical beam from the main mirror, and counteract its flaw, sending the corrected light to the other instruments.

Front and center is the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) tilted on a wedge to reveal its inner components. To the left is COSTAR and behind COSTAR is a developmental model built at the Ball Aerospace Corporation to demonstrate how COSTAR employed mirrors on stalks that could be inserted into the primary light beam from Hubble's flawed mirror, to correct the flaw. On the wall at the back are classic images from Hubble's cameras, and the Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle used to test the Hubble design is seen at the upper right. NASM Photograph
Front and center is the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) tilted on a wedge to reveal its inner components. To the left is COSTAR and behind COSTAR is a developmental model built at the Ball Aerospace Corporation to demonstrate how COSTAR employed mirrors on stalks that could be inserted into the primary light beam from Hubble’s flawed mirror, to correct the flaw. On the wall at the back are classic images from Hubble’s cameras, and the Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle used to test the Hubble design is seen at the upper right. NASM Photograph

After several more servicing missions through the 1990s, all the new instruments onboard Hubble had their own corrections for the flaw in the main mirror. Therefore COSTAR was no longer needed, and, given the rapid advance of solid state detector technologies through the decade, WFPC2 was no longer state of the art. NASA therefore planned another servicing mission to replace them with new more powerful cameras and detectors. But the shock of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident in February 2003 was deeply felt worldwide, making NASA cautious about flights that did not go to the International Space Station. Therefore, in 2004 NASA cancelled Hubble’s fourth servicing mission. Without it, the telescope’s life was projected to end by 2007. The decision incited uproar from scientists, the public, and Congress. Twenty-six former astronauts signed a petition in favour of keeping the Hubble alive. The fifth and final Hubble servicing mission took place in May 2009 and was the most complex and demanding yet. During five spacewalks, Atlantis astronauts installed two new instruments, repaired two others, and performed extensive maintenance. They removed COSTAR and WFPC2 and installed the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), which included greatly upgraded CCDs and some important reusable hardware from the original WF/PC.

Astronauts brought the two old instruments back to Earth and they were soon shipped to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland. Technicians at Goddard and then at the Johnson Space Center examined WFPC2 for effects from prolonged exposure to space. Its radiator, the curved white section that formed part of the Hubble’s outer skin, absorbed more than 15 years’ worth of impacts by micrometeoroids and orbital space debris. Scientists measured the chemical composition of these small impactors to help shed light on the nature of space debris, a danger that affects all space missions. In order to make the analysis, NASA had to core out all the impacts, cutting holes far larger than the debris itself. That’s why there are so many large holes in the image of the radiator below.

The radiator section (rear end) of WFPC2.  After over 15 years of exposure to space, this surface became a record of the accumulation of debris in low earth orbit.
The radiator section (rear end) of WFPC2. After over 15 years of exposure to space, this surface became a record of the accumulation of debris in low earth orbit.

A number of artefacts are on permanent display throughout the museum that relate to Hubble, such as the Hubble Space Telescope Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle in the Space Race gallery, which has been at the museum in Washington since 1989. This full-sized test vehicle served as a frame on which the cables and wiring harnesses for the actual spacecraft were fabricated. It was also used for simulations in developing maintenance and repair activities in orbit. “Outside the Spacecraft: 50 Years of Extra-Vehicular Activity” is also on display at the museum until June 8. This exhibition examines the history of spacewalks, including those done to service Hubble.

Hubble Space Telescope Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle
Hubble Space Telescope Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle

Prior to undertaking construction of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) the Lockheed Missile and Space Company built a full-scale mockup in 1975 for conducting various feasibility studies. Initially a low-fidelity metal cylinder for testing handling procedures for the proposed spacecraft, the test vehicle evolved continuously as Lockheed proceeded through its feasibility studies and was awarded the contract to build the actual spacecraft. The test vehicle eventually served as a frame on which the cables and wiring harnesses for the actual spacecraft were fabricated. It was also used for simulations in developing maintenance and repair activities in orbit. Dynamic studies on the test vehicle including vibration studies and thermal studies led to its being designated the Hubble Space Telescope Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle (SDTV).

The test vehicle has been refurbished twice. For an earlier exhibit, the Museum restored its configuration for structural dynamic tests. In 1996 thermal blankets, antennas, and other features were added to depict the telescope’s appearance in space.

Hubble Space Telescope, 1:5 Scale Model
Hubble Space Telescope, 1:5 Scale Model

The 1:5 scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope was fabricated by the Lockheed Missile and Space Company, the contractor responsible for building the flight spacecraft. The model depicts the exterior shell of the spacecraft as well as the exterior assemblies required for its operation. Prominent features on the model include the light shield and aperture door and the two wing-like solar arrays which flank the main tubular assembly. This is one of four scale models of the Hubble Space Telescope in the museum collection. The model was donated to the museum by the Lockheed Company in August 1983.

Westerlund 2 — Hubble’s 25th anniversary image. NASA/ESA Photograph
Westerlund 2 — Hubble’s 25th anniversary image. NASA/ESA Photograph
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

After Apollo and especially Apollo 11, the American human spaceflight program moved toward new, less ambitious goals. For many citizens landing on the Moon ended the space race and diminished support for expensive programs of human space exploration. Advocates of exploration expected the Apollo missions to be the beginning of an era in which humans would move out into space, to bases on the Moon and space stations in Earth orbit, perhaps on to Mars. Others questioned whether costly human spaceflight should continue at all, now that the race was won.

This shift in public and political sentiment resulted in a modest program of human space activity — compared to the hey-day of the lunar landings. As the last lunar mission, Apollo 17, was completed in 1972, the nation settled in for a quieter era of space exploration. Two programs, using leftover Apollo rockets and spacecraft no longer need for moon journeys, symbolized this new era: Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

In July 1975 two manned spacecraft were launched into Earth orbit – one from Kazakstan, the other from Florida. Their rendezvous in orbit fulfilled a 1972 agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States to participate in a joint venture in space.

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project marked a brief thaw in the Cold War and the first time that the two rivals cooperated in a manned space mission. Engineering teams from both sides collaborated in the development of a docking module to link the spacecraft. Control centers in Moscow and Houston exercised joint duties through a cooperative exchange of tracking data and communications. The crews visited each other’s spacecraft, shared meals, and worked on various tasks during several days together in space. Apollo commander Thomas P. Stafford and Soyuz-19 commander Aleksei A. Leonov greeted each other for the first time in space with a handshake. This mission was meant to symbolize the end of competition and the beginning of an era of cooperation in space.

Apollo commander Thomas P. Stafford (right) and Soyuz-19 commander Aleksei A. Leonov (left)
Apollo commander Thomas P. Stafford (right) and Soyuz-19 commander Aleksei A. Leonov (left)

Skylab, an experimental habitat built from the third-stage of a Saturn V, the first American space station. In an era of lower space budgets and waning public interest, it was only intended as a temporary, not a permanent, home in space. Skylab was occupied by astronauts only three times over 1973 and 1974.

Skylab Orbital Workshop
Skylab Orbital Workshop

The orbital workshop is the largest component of Skylab, America’s first space station. It houses the living quarters, work and storage areas, research equipment, and most of the supplies needed to support a succession of three-man crews. Two complete Skylab space stations were manufactured and equipped for flight, and one was launched into Earth orbit in May 1973. After the Skylab program was cancelled as effort shifted to Space Shuttle development, NASA transferred the backup Skylab to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975. On display in the Museum’s Space Hall since 1976, the orbital workshop has been slightly modified to permit viewers to walk through the living quarters.

Skylab 4 Command Module
Skylab 4 Command Module

This Apollo command module is identical to those used during the Apollo Program. It was used to ferry the crew of the last Skylab mission, astronauts Gerald P. Carr, Edward G. Gibson, and William R. Pogue, to the Skylab Orbital Workshop and back to Earth again. The Skylab 4 crew lived in the Skylab for 84 days, from Nov. 16, 1973 to Feb. 8, 1974. The crew performed numerous experiments and demonstrated that humans can live and work in space for long periods of time.

Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, successful and significant undertakings, seemed a quiet conclusion to Apollo, arguably the boldest and most dramatic adventure in history.

The museum has plenty of artefacts from that adventure.

Surveyor Lunar Lander
Surveyor Lunar Lander

The artefact in the collection is an engineering model, S-10, used for thermal control tests. It was reconfigured to represent a flight model of Surveyor 3 or later, since it was the first to have a scoop and claw surface sampler. After receipt in 1968 it was displayed in Smithsonian’s Arts & Industries Building and then was moved to its present location in Gallery 112, Lunar Exploration Vehicles, in 1976.

The Surveyor series was designed to carry out soft landings on the Moon and provide data about its surface and possible atmosphere. These were the first U.S. probes to soft-land on the Moon. Once landed they provided detailed pictures of the surface by means of a TV camera carried on each of the spacecraft. Later Surveyors carried the instrumented soil mechanics surface scoop seen on the artefact. These were used to study the mechanical properties of lunar soil. Some of the spacecraft were also equipped to perform simple chemical analyses on lunar soil by means of alpha particle scattering. There were seven Surveyor launches starting in May, 1966, all launched by the Atlas-Centaur rocket. All but two successfully achieved program goals returning over 88,000 high resolution photographs and invaluable detailed data on the nature and strength of the lunar surface.

Lunar Orbiter, Engineering Mock-up
Lunar Orbiter, Engineering Mock-up

Lunar Orbiter was the project that mapped the Moon in preparation for the Apollo landings. A total of five Lunar Orbiters were flown to the Moon. They were built for NASA’s Langley Research Center by Boeing and launched to the Moon on Atlas-Agena rockets. The first three orbited around the Moon’s equator and provided detailed photographic coverage of the primary Apollo landing sites, including stereo images. Because of the success of these earlier missions, the final two Lunar Orbiters were placed into a polar orbit so that virtually the entire surface of the Moon was mapped. In addition to images of the Apollo landing sites, Lunar Orbiter provided many breathtaking photographs, including features on the farside.

In addition to the near global photographic coverage of the Moon, Lunar Orbiter provided additional information that aided Apollo. Sensors on board indicated that radiation levels near the Moon would pose no danger to the astronauts. Analysis of the spacecraft orbits found evidence of gravity perturbations, which suggested that the Moon was not gravitationally uniform. Instead it appeared as if buried concentrations of mass were under the mare deposits. By discovering and defining these “mascons,” Lunar Orbiter made it possible for the Apollo missions to conduct highly accurate landings and precision rendezvous.

After depleting their film supplies, all five Lunar Orbiters were purposely crashed onto the Moon to prevent their radio transmitters from interfering with future spacecraft.

Apollo Lunar Module no 2
Apollo Lunar Module no 2

The Apollo Lunar Module (LM) was a two-stage vehicle designed by Grumman to ferry two astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back. The upper ascent stage consisted of a pressurized crew compartment, equipment areas, and an ascent rocket engine. The lower descent stage had the landing gear and contained the descent rocket engine and lunar surface experiments.

LM 2 was built for a second unmanned Earth-orbit test flight. Because the test flight of LM 1, named Apollo 5, was so successful, a second mission was deemed unnecessary. LM-2 was used for ground testing prior to the first successful Moon-landing mission. In 1970 the ascent stage of LM-2 spent several months on display at the “Expo ’70” in Osaka, Japan. When it returned to the United States, it was reunited with its descent stage, modified to appear like the Apollo 11 Lunar Module “Eagle”, and transferred to the Smithsonian for display.

Clementine Engineering Model
Clementine Engineering Model

Clementine was built by the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. to test lightweight instruments and components for the next generation of spacecraft. It was designed to complete a two-month mapping mission in orbit around the Moon and then fly past an asteroid. Like the miner’s daughter in the song, “My Darlin’ Clementine”, its instruments would help determine the mineral content of these objects and then be “lost and gone forever”. Remarkably, Clementine went from the drawing board and into space in less than two years with a cost of under 100 million dollars, thus introducing the era of “faster, better, cheaper” spacecraft. Although its attempt at flying past an asteroid failed, Clementine provided answers to many of the questions about the Moon that remained from the Apollo era of lunar exploration. This engineering model was transferred from the Naval Research Laboratory to the museum in 2002.

Model of OV-102 Columbia and the Shuttle "stack" poised for launch on the mobile launch platform and crawler transporter
1:15 Model of OV-102 Columbia and the Shuttle “stack” poised for launch on the mobile launch platform and crawler transporter

This model represents the final Space Shuttle design that emerged from NASA-industry studies in 1969-1972. This design was selected as the best combination of a reusable orbiter, a disposable external tank, and two recoverable solid rocket boosters after it became evident that a completely reusable system would be too large and too costly. The model depicts the orbiter Columbia and the Shuttle “stack” poised for launch on the mobile launch platform and crawler transporter. Rockwell International, Space Shuttle prime contractor, presented this model to the Museum shortly after the first mission in 1981.

Model of OV-102 Columbia and the Shuttle "stack" poised for launch on the mobile launch platform and crawler transporter
1:15 Model of OV-102 Columbia and the Shuttle “stack” poised for launch on the mobile launch platform and crawler transporter

Little Puffles and Honey could not leave the museum without saying hello to Buzz! And Magellan T. Bear!

With Buzz Lightyear and Magellan T. Bear
With Buzz Lightyear and Magellan T. Bear

Buzz Lightyear flew to the International Space Station in 2008 through an educational initiative developed by NASA with Disney•Pixar, as part of NASA’s broader “Toys in Space” project. Buzz flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery twice (up on STS-124 and down on STS-128) and spent 15 months aboard the ISS. Puffles and Honey saw Discovery at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the second site of the National Air and Space Museum.

Buzz Lightyear on the ISS
Buzz Lightyear on the ISS
Buzz Lightyear on orbit with fellow crewmembers Greg Chamitoff and Mike Finke. NASA Photograph
Buzz Lightyear on orbit with fellow crewmembers Greg Chamitoff and Mike Finke. NASA Photograph

Magellan T. Bear, manufactured by the North American Bear Company, became the first official teddy bear in space, flying as the “education specialist” aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-63 mission in February 1995. The bear’s journey was part of an ambitious educational project to stimulate interest in geography, science and social studies. Students and faculty of Elk Creek Elementary School in Pine, Colorado, worked with NASA and Spacehab to have the teddy bear certified for spaceflight. The school also arranged for the bear to fly around the world, visit the South Pole, fly on United Airlines’ first Boeing 777 flight, and attend US Space Camp.

Ok, one more hello to some beary friends 🙂

With beary friends
With beary friends

Something little Puffles and Honey did not see is the Enterprise Model from Star Trek The Original Series. It went back on display, after an intensive restoration program, after their visit.

Star Trek Original Series Enterprise Model
Star Trek Original Series Enterprise Model
Star Trek Original Series Enterprise Model
Star Trek Original Series Enterprise Model

National Air and Space Museum

And then we discovered another shuttle at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC!

National Air & Space Museum

The shuttle was named Discovery after two ships – one in which Henry Hudson attempted to search for a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and instead discovered Hudson Bay (1610-11) and another in which Captain Cook explored the Hawai’ian Islands and explored southern Alaska and western Canada (1778-1779). And we got another stamp for discovering Discovery! 🙂

National Air & Space Museum

OV-103 Discovery Dates of Service: August 1984 to March 2011 Missions Flown: 39 Time is Space: 365 days Total orbits flown: 5,830
OV-103 Discovery
Dates of Service: August 1984 to March 2011
Missions Flown: 39
Time is Space: 365 days
Total orbits flown: 5,830

The Space Shuttle Discovery is in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, the companion facility to the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Between the two sites, the museum holds the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world.

OV-103 Discovery Dates of Service: August 1984 to March 2011 Missions Flown: 39 Time is Space: 365 days Total orbits flown: 5,830
OV-103 Discovery
Dates of Service: August 1984 to March 2011
Missions Flown: 39
Time is Space: 365 days
Total orbits flown: 5,830

Space Shuttle Discovery was put on public display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar on April 19, 2012, replacing the atmospheric test vehicle, Enterprise, now on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Enterprise had been on display in the Space Hangar since the museum opened in 2003.

Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. It took the first Russian cosmonaut to fly on a shuttle in space. It brought John Glenn back to space 36 years after he became the first American to orbit Earth. It returned the US to spaceflight after the Challenger and Columbia tragedies. It flew the first mission with a female shuttle pilot – Eileen Collins on STS-63 and the first teddy bear as “education specialist”, Magellan T. Bear! It was the first shuttle to dock with the International Space Station. Discovery also took a famous movie star to the International Space Station and back to Earth. Buzz Lightyear went to the ISS on STS-124 on 31 May 2008 and came back to Earth on STS-128 on 12 September 2009. In addition, Discovery supported a number of Department of Defence programs, satellite deploy and repair missions and 13 International Space Station construction and operation flights.

Discovery’s 25th flight, STS-95, on October 29, 1998, was a highly publicized mission due to former Project Mercury astronaut and United States Senator John H. Glenn, Jr.’s return to space for his second space flight. At age 77, Glenn became the oldest person, to date, to go into space. President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton watched John Glenn’s return to space from the roof of the VAB. President Clinton is the only US president to be present at a shuttle launch.

There is a tribute to the Space Shuttle Discovery which hangs in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Centre at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The tribute features Discovery demonstrating the rendezvous pitch manoeuvre on approach to the International Space Station during STS-114. Having accumulated the most space shuttle flights, Discovery’s 39 mission patches are shown circling the spacecraft. The background image was taken from the Hubble Space Telescope, which launched aboard Discovery on STS-31 and serviced by Discovery on STS-82 and STS-103. The American flag and bald eagle represent Discovery’s two Return to Flight missions – STS-26 and STS-114 – and symbolize Discovery’s role in returning American astronauts to space. Five orbiter tributes are on display in the firing room, representing Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Endeavour and Discovery.

Space Shuttle Discovery Tribute
Space Shuttle Discovery Tribute

Puffles and Honey admiring the five orbiter tributes in Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Centre at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida 🙂

LCC, Firing Room 4
LCC, Firing Room 4

The Space Hangar also exhibits capsules and other artefacts of human space flight, space science, applications satellites and rockets and missiles.

Mercury Capsule "Big Joe"
Mercury Capsule “Big Joe”

On September 9, 1959, NASA launched the unmanned Mercury spacecraft “Big Joe” from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a suborbital flight that lasted 13 minutes. It was the second Mercury launch and the first using an Atlas booster. The flight helped NASA evaluate the booster, the new ablative heat shield (designed to burn away during reentry to dissipate heat), the capsule’s flight dynamics and aerodynamic shape, and spacecraft recovery systems and procedures.

The heavily instrumented “Big Joe” was the most massive American spacecraft launched up to that time. Its internal design was different from the manned version, but its success paved the way for the beginning of manned Mercury launches in 1961.

Mercury Capsule Freedom 7 II
Mercury Capsule Freedom 7 II

In May 1961, the first Mercury capsule, Freedom 7, launched Alan Shepard as the first American in space. The Mercury capsule Freedom 7 II was planned to be the last of the Mercury series. Because of the success of the Mercury program, NASA decided that it had learned all it could from this program and decided to concentrate on its follow-on Gemini and Apollo programs.

This Mercury capsule is the only one of two left showing the complete spacecraft in its orbital configuration. It includes the silver and black retrorocket package used to slow the capsule for return to Earth and the nose section containing the parachutes.

Alan Shepard, the first American in space, hoped to fly this Mercury capsule on a long-duration orbital mission in late 1963 called Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10). After the success of MA-9, flown by astronaut Gordon Cooper in May 1963, NASA cancelled MA-10 to concentrate on its next human spaceflight project, Gemini. Reflecting Shepard’s hope of flying in space again, he had the name Freedom 7 II painted on the spacecraft in tribute to his historic 1961 capsule, Freedom 7.

Gemini VII Capsule
Gemini VII Capsule

Frank Borman and James Lovell, Jr. lifted off aboard Gemini VII on December 4, 1965. Their primary mission was to show that humans could live in weightlessness for 14 days, an endurance record that stood until 1970. Their spacecraft also served as the target vehicle for Gemini VI-A, piloted by Walter M. Schirra, Jr. and Thomas P. Stafford, who carried out the world’s first space rendezvous on December 15. These two achievements were critical steps on the road to the moon.

The configuration shown is the only part of Gemini VII that returned to Earth. Behind the heat shield was an adapter section containing propellants for the manoeuvering thrusters, fuel cells for electric power, and retrorockets to return to Earth. It was jettisoned before reentry. The nose section was discarded during deployment of the main parachute, and the spacecraft landed in the ocean with the hatches facing up.

The Command Module Columbia splashed down in the Pacific on July 24, about 24 kilometres from USS Hornet, the prime recovery ship.

The Apollo 11 crew await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic lunar landing mission. The fourth man in the life raft is a United States Navy underwater demolition team swimmer. All four men are wearing biological isolation garments.
The Apollo 11 crew await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic lunar landing mission. The fourth man in the life raft is a United States Navy underwater demolition team swimmer. All four men are wearing biological isolation garments. NASA Photograph

When an Apollo Command Module landed in the ocean, it could settle into one of two stable positions: nose up or nose down. Landing nose down left its recovery antennas underwater and increased the possibility that the spacecraft might flood. To turn the module upright, three inflatable bags were installed in a forward compartment. In the event of a nose-down landing, astronauts could right the spacecraft by inflating the bags using two air compressors located in the aft (blunt) end of the spacecraft.

Apollo 11 Flotation Bags and Flotation Collar
Apollo 11 Flotation Bags and Flotation Collar fitted to Boilerplate #1102A, National Air & Space Museum

The three flotation bags attached to this command module trainer are the actual bags used on Apollo 11 at the end of its historic lunar landing mission on July 24, 1969. The astronauts deployed them after the command module settled nose down, enabling the spacecraft to right itself about six and a half minutes after splashdown.

Apollo 11 Flotation Bag
Apollo 11 Flotation Bag, National Air & Space Museum

The flotation collar attached to the command module trainer is also the actual unit deployed during the recovery of Apollo 11. Navy swimmers attached and inflated the custom-made flotation collar around the command module to stabilize it.

The command module trainer on display at National Air & Space Museum (Boilerplate #1102A) was built by NASA as one of several “boilerplate” Apollo command modules that were used for testing and to train astronauts and other mission crew members. This one is made of aluminium with a fibreglass outer shell and has an actual command module hatch. It was used by Apollo astronauts, including the crew of Apollo 11, to practice routine and emergency exits. The interior was later fitted with actual or mockup components to simulate the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft and the five-person rescue vehicle planned for use if an emergency developed during the Skylab program.

Vega Probe
Vega Solar System Probe

The space science exhibit includes the Vega Solar System Probe. In 1984, the Soviet Union launched the Vega 1 and Vega 2 spacecraft, which flew by Venus and dispatched atmospheric instruments and landers, then went on to pass through the tail of Comet Halley. The multinational mission involved scientists and instruments from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, East and West Germany, Hungary, Poland, the United States and the Soviet Union, and marked a new era of international cooperation for the Soviet space program.

Vega Solar System Probe Bus And Landing Apparatus
Vega Solar System Probe Bus And Landing Apparatus

French scientists designed Vega’s main Venus experiment, a balloon carrying scientific instruments that was released into the atmosphere to measure cloud activity. Each Vega also released a Soviet-designed lander to investigate the planet’s surface. This bus, for carrying the atmospheric experiment and the landing apparatus are engineering models.

Mars Pathfinder Lander Prototype
Mars Pathfinder Lander Prototype

Mars Pathfinder was the first spacecraft to land on the surface of the red planet since the Viking mission in 1976. The artefact is a full-scale engineering prototype for a spacecraft that was launched on December 4, 1996. On reaching Mars on July 4, 1997, the spacecraft entered the planet’s thin atmosphere, was slowed by a parachute and then rockets, and then landed by bouncing on inflated airbags. The protective aeroshell then unfolded to provide the three flat platforms, one of which held a rover (Sojourner).

Pathfinder had a TV camera and scientific instruments to gather scientific data on the Martian atmosphere and weather, as well as solar cells to provide power and communications. The lander operated for over 90 days, during which it relayed 2.3 gigabits of data including that gathered by Sojourner. Some of this data suggest the presence of large amounts of water on Mars in the distant past. The spacecraft as well as the prototype were designed and built by JPL for NASA’s office of Space Science.

Spacelab
Spacelab Module #1 (flown)

Developed by the European Space Agency, Spacelab was a modular laboratory system installed in the payload bay of the Space Shuttle orbiter. During Spacelab missions in the 1980s and 1990s, the Shuttle served as an intermittent space station for research conducted by scientists and astronauts. The laboratory module, a pressurized cylindrical room connected by a tunnel to the crew cabin, was Spacelab’s primary element. It was outfitted with racks containing subsystems, computers, work stations, stowage lockers, supplies, equipment, and experiments that varied from mission to mission.

Two laboratory modules were flown on a total of 16 missions from 1983 through 1998. This one, Module #1, was used nine times, first on the Spacelab 1 mission in 1983 and last on the Microgravity Science Laboratory missions in 1997. NASA transferred it to the Museum when the Spacelab program ended.

Spacelab could be configured with an enclosed laboratory module, exposed platforms called pallets, or a module-pallet combination. The igloo canister was used on pallet-only missions. Mounted besides a pallet, it held subsystems that supplied power and other utilities to instruments, and experiments on the pallet. Two igloo units were manufactured and used in space. The igloo unit in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar has intact exterior thermal insulation, but its internal hardware has been removed for reuse.

Spacelab Transfer Tunnel (R) and Igloo (L)
Spacelab Transfer Tunnel – Joggle Section (R) and Igloo (L)

A transfer tunnel permitted “indoor” passage of astronauts and equipment between the Space Shuttle’s mid-deck crew cabin and the Spacelab laboratory module in the Shuttle’s open payload bay. The pressurized tunnel had both a straight section and a joggle or elbow section to compensate for the different heights of the mid-deck and module entry hatches.

Rocket Models
Rocket Models

From left to right:
Atlas-Centaur Rocket (1:15 model) – NASA successfully launched the Atlas-Centaur more than 60 times from 1966 to 1989 to place a variety of payloads in space – Surveyor lunar probes, Marriner and Pioneer interplanetary probes and government and communication satellites.

Titan IIIC Rocket (1:15 model) – The Martin company began to develop the Titan IIIC for the US Air Force in 1959. The Air Force successfully used the Titan IIIC more than 30 times from 1965 to 1982 to place a variety of military communications and reconnaissance satellites in orbit. NASA used the rocket in 1973 to launch an Applications Technology Satellite.

Delta 3914 Rocket (1:15 model) – The 3914 was one of many Delta rocket versions built by McDonnell Douglas for NASA. NASA launched 3914s successfully 10 out 12 times from 1975 to 1987 to place in orbit a variety of satellites.

Titan IIIE Centaur Rocket (1:15 model) – NASA used the rocket from 1974 to 1977 to launch two Helios spacecraft to Mercury, two Viking spacecraft to Mars and two Voyager spacecraft to the outer planets. Only one launch during this period failed. Martin Marietta made this model and donated it to the museum in 1983.

Ariane 4 Rocket (1:15 model) – Ariane 4 was the fourth rocket built by the European Space Agency (ESA), a consortium of 11 Western European nations established in 1973 to design and produce launch vehicles and spacecraft. ESA developed six versions of the three-stage, liquid-fuel Ariane 4 that differed only in their use of liquid-fuel or solid-fuel strap-on rockets to increase boost at liftoff. Arianespace, a component of ESA, first launched the Ariane 4 in 1988 from its complex in French Guiana, South America. Since then the reliable Ariane 4 has been successfully used over 100 times to launch a variety of government and commercial satellites. Arianespace built this model and donated it to the museum in 1987.

H-I Rocket (1:15 model) – The H-I was the third rocket built by Japan’s National Space Development Agency (NASDA). NASDA launched the H-I nine times from 1986 to 1992 with no launch failures, placing 13 communications, weather, ocean observation, and remote-sensing satellites in Earth orbit. The larger and more powerful H-II rocket, which first flew in 1994, replaced the H-I. NASDA built this model and donated it to the museum in 1991.

H-II Rocket (1:15 model) – The H-II was the fourth rocket built by Japan’s National Space Development Agency (NASDA). It was the first NASDA rocket to use exclusively Japanese technology. NASDA first successfully launched the H-II in 1994, placing one satellite into Earth orbit and one experimental vehicle that returned to Earth after one orbit. Over the next five years, NASDA successfully launched H-IIs on four of six attempts. The larger and more powerful H-IIA, which first flew in 2002, replaced the H-II. NASDA built this model and donated it to the museum in 1991.

Atlas V (1:15 model) – This is one of five versions of the Atlas V expendable launch vehicle, one of two families of rockets that have placed all medium and heavy US government payloads in space since 2006. To provide maximum flexibility and capability, Atlas Vs use many common components. Each version carries a three digit designation. The first digit designates the payload fairing diameter in metres; the second, the number of solid rocket boosters; and the third, the number of Centaur engines. This Atlas V is a number 431.

Delta IV (1:15 model) – This is one of five versions of the Delta IV expendable launch vehicle, one of two families of rockets that have placed all medium and heavy US government payloads in space since 2006. There are three classes of Delta IVs: one medium, three medium-plus (+) and one heavy. This model is a Delta IV Medium +(5.4). The first digit in parentheses represents the payload diameter in metres; the second digit, the number of strap-on solid rocket boosters. All Delta IVs use the same first and second stage engines and many other common components.

1:48 Scale Model of Saturn V Launch Vehicle
1:48 Scale Model of Saturn V Launch Vehicle

This model shows the location of the Saturn V rocket’s components, including the instrument unit – the black band between the Saturn’s third stage (the S-IVB) and its payload. For missions to the Moon, the payload consisted (from the instrument unit up) of the lunar module, encased within a protective conical covering; the service module and the command module. At the top was the launch escape system, used only in emergency and jettisoned once the rocket has ascended safely off the launch pad.

The instrument unit guided the three-stage rocket from launch, to Earth orbit and finally to the transfer from Earth orbit to lunar trajectory. Once the astronauts were headed toward the Moon, the Apollo guidance computer in the command module took over guidance and navigation functions.

Tracking and Data Relay Satellite - High Fidelity Model
Tracking and Data Relay Satellite – High Fidelity Model

During the first decades of the Space Age, NASA required a worldwide network of ground stations to communicate with satellites and human-operated spacecraft. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) system, a constellation of three spacecraft placed into geosynchronous orbit beginning in 1983, was designed to replace this expensive, far-flung system. Positioned equidistant in orbit, they provide nearly continuous contact with spacecraft in low Earth orbit – an especially crucial capability for ensuring the safety of Space Shuttle crews.

Advanced Orbiting Solar observatory - Full scale engineering model
Advanced Orbiting Solar Observatory – Full scale engineering model

This is a full-scale engineering mockup of the Advanced Orbiting Solar Observatory (AOSO) representing its most complete configuration. This satellite was designed as a scaled-up counterpart to the Orbiting Solar Observatory series in the early 1960s. It was conceived as a free-flying, robotic, polar-orbiting satellite system capable of continuously monitoring the sun and near solar environment using an array of detectors and electronic imaging devices covering a broad frequency band from the x-ray to the visual range. Many of the scientific instruments planned for AOSO eventually were developed for the Skylab Apollo Telescope Mount, which flew in 1973. The AOSO program was canceled in 1965, and this object was transferred to the museum by NASA in 1969.

OV-102 Columbia, The First Orbiter in Space. 1:50 Scale Model
OV-102 Columbia, The First Orbiter in Space. 1:50 Scale Model

Columbia was first launched on April 12, 1981. It completed 27 missions before disintegrating during reentry on February 1, 2003.

Final Space Shuttle Design.  1:200 Scale Model
Final Space Shuttle Design. 1:200 Scale Model

This model depicts the operational Space Shuttle. For launch, the winged orbiter is mounted on an external tank attached to two solid rocket boosters. The boosters and three main engines operate together at liftoff. The orbiter and boosters are reusable, but the tank is not.

OV-103 Discovery Three main engines
OV-103 Discovery
Three main engines
James S. McDonnell Space Hangar
James S. McDonnell Space Hangar

The Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, has a second hangar, the Boeing Aviation Hangar. The aviation artefacts include aerobatics flight, World War II aviation (including the Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay”), cold war aviation (including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird), commercial aviation (including a Concorde), and more.

Boeing Aviation Hangar
Boeing Aviation Hangar
Boeing Aviation Hangar
Boeing Aviation Hangar
Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay", Boeing Aviation Hangar
Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay”, Boeing Aviation Hangar

Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear weapons.

On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan. The nuclear bomb had a name, “Little Boy”! It is estimated the nuclear bomb directly killed 80,000 people. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought the total number of deaths to somewhere between 90,000 and 166,000. Approximately 70% of the city’s buildings were destroyed, and another 7% severely damaged.

This panorama at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum shows the aftermath of the atomic bomb within a 2.75km of ground zero. The atomic bomb exploded 600m above the ground, generating an instantaneous fireball. The red ball above the panorama simulates the fireball (280m in diameter) one second after the explosion.

Hiroshima Peace Park

Three days later, on August 9, “Bockscar” (on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio) dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. “Enola Gay” flew as the advance weather reconnaissance aircraft that day. A third B-29, “The Great Artiste”, flew as an observation aircraft on both missions.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, Boeing Aviation Hangar
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, Boeing Aviation Hangar

No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated in more hostile airspace or with such complete impunity than the SR-71 Blackbird. It is the fastest aircraft propelled by air-breathing engines. The Blackbird’s performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments during the Cold War. The airplane was conceived when tensions with communist Eastern Europe reached levels approaching a full-blown crisis in the mid-1950s. U.S. military commanders desperately needed accurate assessments of Soviet worldwide military deployments, particularly near the Iron Curtain. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s subsonic U-2 (see NASM collection) reconnaissance aircraft was an able platform but the U. S. Air Force recognized that this relatively slow aircraft was already vulnerable to Soviet interceptors. They also understood that the rapid development of surface-to-air missile systems could put U-2 pilots at grave risk. The danger proved reality when a U-2 was shot down by a surface to air missile over the Soviet Union in 1960.

After the Air Force began to operate the SR-71, it acquired the official name Blackbird – for the special black paint that covered the airplane. This paint was formulated to absorb radar signals, to radiate some of the tremendous airframe heat generated by air friction, and to camouflage the aircraft against the dark sky at high altitudes.

This Blackbird accrued about 2,800 hours of flight time during 24 years of active service with the U.S. Air Force. On its last flight, March 6, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida set a speed record by flying from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds, averaging 3,418 kilometres per hour. At the flight’s conclusion, they landed at Washington-Dulles International Airport and turned the airplane over to the Smithsonian.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, Boeing Aviation Hangar
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, Boeing Aviation Hangar
Concorde,  Boeing Aviation Hangar
Concorde, Boeing Aviation Hangar

The first supersonic airliner to enter service, the Concorde flew thousands of passengers across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound for over 25 years. Designed and built by Aérospatiale of France and the British Aviation Corporation, the graceful Concorde was a stunning technological achievement that could not overcome serious economic problems.

In 1976 Air France and British Airways jointly inaugurated Concorde service to destinations around the globe. Carrying up to 100 passengers in great comfort, the Concorde catered to first class passengers for whom speed was critical. It could cross the Atlantic in fewer than four hours – half the time of a conventional jet airliner. However its high operating costs resulted in very high fares that limited the number of passengers who could afford to fly it. These problems and a shrinking market eventually forced the reduction of service until all Concordes were retired in 2003.

In 1989, Air France signed a letter of agreement to donate a Concorde to the National Air and Space Museum upon the aircraft’s retirement. On June 12, 2003, Air France honored that agreement, donating Concorde F-BVFA to the Museum upon the completion of its last flight. This aircraft was the first Air France Concorde to open service to Rio de Janeiro, Washington, DC, and New York City and had flown 17,824 hours.

And then there is the museum on the National Mall…

National Air & Space Museum

Wait, we need more cupcakes!

National Air & Space Museum

I still have my cupcake…

National Air & Space Museum

Ok, then… 🙂

National Air & Space Museum

Hmmm, let’s get some more before we continue with the story…

National Air & Space Museum

To the Moon and Beyond

Space Centre Houston
Space Centre Houston

To the Moon and Beyond! Do they have cupcakes on the Moon?

To the Moon and Beyond

Ummm, I don’t think so…

To the Moon and Beyond

Why not? They went there with a really big rocket.

To the Moon and Beyond

Well, they lost most of it along the way… They left Earth with a 111m rocket, 18m taller than the Statue of Liberty, and they reached the Moon’s orbit with an 18m rocket! Then they landed on the Moon in a 7m high Lunar Module. See, it’s tiny! No room for cupcakes 🙂

To the Moon and Beyond

The Saturn V was a human-rated expendable rocket used by NASA between 1966 and 1973. The Saturn V rockets used for the Apollo missions had three stages. Each stage would burn its engines until it was out of fuel and would then separate from the rocket. The engines on the next stage would fire, and the rocket would continue into space. The first stage had the most powerful engines, since it had the challenging task of lifting the fully fueled rocket off the ground. The first stage lifted the rocket to an altitude of about 68 kilometers. The second stage carried it from there almost into orbit. The third stage placed the Apollo spacecraft into Earth orbit and pushed it toward the moon. The first two stages fell into the ocean after separation. The third stage either stayed in space or hit the moon.

The Apollo spacecraft that reached the Moon orbit consisted of the Apollo Command and Service Modules and the Lunar Module. The Lunar Module was enclosed in and protected by the Spacecraft Lunar Module Adaptor during launch.

Apollo Spacecraft - Command and Service Module and Lunar Module
Apollo Spacecraft – Command and Service Module and Lunar Module
Apollo/Saturn V Centre
Apollo Command and Service Modules Model at Apollo/Saturn V Centre, Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V on display in the Apollo / Saturn V Centre, Kennedy Space Centre
Saturn V on display in the Apollo / Saturn V Centre, Kennedy Space Centre

The Command Module (CM) was the only Apollo / Saturn V component to return to earth. Functioning as a cockpit, office, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, the CM was home to the three astronauts except when two of the crew members visited the Moon in the Lunar Module. The CM was constructed by North American Rockwell.

The Launch Escape System (LES) at the tip of the Apollo / Saturn V was designed to separate the CM from the rest of the rocket in the event of a launch emergency. It was jettisoned approximately 30 seconds after ignition of the S-II stage.

The Service Module (SM) provided the Command Module with essential supplies such as oxygen, water, fuel and electricity. The SM also acted as the CM’s primary source of propulsion and was responsible for placing the spacecraft into lunar orbit as well as thrusting it back toward Earth at the end of the mission, before being cast off and allowed to burn up in the atmosphere before the Command Module re-entered and brought the crew home.

Built by North American Rockwell, the Service Module was basically an aluminium cylinder that enclosed a compact labyrinth of tanks, fuel cells and cables. The CM and SM were joined for most of the lunar voyage and were referred to collectively as the Command and Service Module (CSM).

Apollo 15 Command and Service Modules in lunar orbit. NASA
Apollo 15 Command and Service Modules in lunar orbit. NASA Photograph

The Lunar Module (LM) was the lander portion of the Apollo spacecraft built to carry a crew of two from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon and back. Designed for lunar orbit rendezvous, it consisted of an ascent stage and descent stage, and was ferried to lunar orbit by its companion Command and Service Module (CSM). After completing its mission, the LM was discarded. It was capable of operation only in outer space; structurally and aerodynamically it was incapable of flight through the Earth’s atmosphere. The Lunar Module was the first, and to date only, manned spacecraft to operate exclusively in the airless vacuum of space.

Apollo Lunar Module no 2
Apollo Lunar Module no 2, National Air & Space Museum

Forty-seven years ago on July 20 (or July 21 in other parts of the world) the world stopped for a brief instant to witness a remarkable accomplishment, the first instance in which humanity set foot on another body in our solar system.

Launch of Apollo 11. NASA Photo.
Launch of Apollo 11. NASA Photograph

When the Apollo 11 spacecraft lifted off on July 16, 1969, for the Moon, it signaled a climactic instance in human history. Reaching the Moon on July 20, its Lunar Module — with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard — landed on the lunar surface while Michael Collins orbited overhead in the Apollo 11 command module Columbia. Armstrong soon set foot on the surface, telling millions on Earth that it was “one small step for man — one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin soon followed him out and the two planted an American flag but omitted claiming the land for the US as had been routinely done during European exploration of the Americas, collected soil and rock samples, and set up scientific experiments. The next day they returned to the Apollo capsule overhead and returned to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.

View of a lunar module against the blackness of space. This image was taken during separation of the lunar module and the command module during the Apollo 11 mission. NASA Photo.
View of a lunar module against the blackness of space. This image was taken during separation of the lunar module and the command module during the Apollo 11 mission. NASA Photograph

As commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong took most of the photographs from the historic moonwalk, but this rare shot from fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin shows Armstrong at work near the lunar module Eagle.

Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface. As commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong took most of the photographs from the historic moonwalk, but this rare shot from fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin shows Armstrong at work near the lunar module Eagle.
Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface. NASA Photograph
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, descends the steps of the Lunar Module (LM) ladder as he prepares to walk on the Moon.
Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, descends the steps of the Lunar Module (LM) ladder as he prepares to walk on the Moon. NASA Photograph
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Commander of Apollo 11, took this photograph of Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin on July 20, 1969. NASA Photograph
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Commander of Apollo 11, took this photograph of Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on July 20, 1969. NASA Photograph
 Buzz Aldrin's bootprint on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission. NASA Photograph.
Buzz Aldrin’s bootprint on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission. NASA Photograph.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during Apollo 11 Extravehicular Activity (EVA). NASA Photograph.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during Apollo 11 Extravehicular Activity (EVA). NASA engineers designed the Moon flag, and all subsequent ones, with a horizontal bar that allowed them to “fly” without the benefit of a breeze. NASA Photograph
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 Commander inside the Lunar Module LM as it rests on the lunar surface after completion of the Extravehicular Activities EVA.
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 Commander inside the Lunar Module LM as it rests on the lunar surface after completion of the Extravehicular Activities EVA. NASA Photograph

The Command Module Columbia splashed down in the Pacific on July 24, about 24 kilometres from USS Hornet, the prime recovery ship.

The Apollo 11 crew await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic lunar landing mission. The fourth man in the life raft is a United States Navy underwater demolition team swimmer. All four men are wearing biological isolation garments.
The Apollo 11 crew await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic lunar landing mission. The fourth man in the life raft is a United States Navy underwater demolition team swimmer. All four men are wearing biological isolation garments. NASA Photograph

When an Apollo Command Module landed in the ocean, it could settle into one of two stable positions: nose up or nose down. Landing nose down left its recovery antennas underwater and increased the possibility that the spacecraft might flood. To turn the module upright, three inflatable bags were installed in a forward compartment. In the event of a nose-down landing, astronauts could right the spacecraft by inflating the bags using two air compressors located in the aft (blunt) end of the spacecraft.

Apollo 11 Flotation Bags and Flotation Collar
Apollo 11 Flotation Bags and Flotation Collar fitted to Boilerplate #1102A, National Air & Space Museum

The three flotation bags attached to this command module trainer are the actual bags used on Apollo 11 at the end of its historic lunar landing mission on July 24, 1969. The astronauts deployed them after the command module settled nose down, enabling the spacecraft to right itself about six and a half minutes after splashdown.

Apollo 11 Flotation Bag
Apollo 11 Flotation Bag, National Air & Space Museum

The flotation collar attached to the command module trainer is also the actual unit deployed during the recovery of Apollo 11. Navy swimmers attached and inflated the custom-made flotation collar around the command module to stabilize it. To the flotation collar they fastened a large, seven-person raft. The three astronauts emerged from the spacecraft, climbed onto the raft and donned special Biological Isolation Garments in preparation for their transfer to a quarantine facility on the Hornet.

Apollo 11 crew in quarantine. President Richard M. Nixon was in the central Pacific recovery area to welcome the Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.
Apollo 11 crew in quarantine. President Richard M. Nixon was in the central Pacific recovery area to welcome the Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.

The command module trainer on display at National Air & Space Museum (Boilerplate #1102A) was built by NASA as one of several “boilerplate” Apollo command modules that were used for testing and to train astronauts and other mission crew members. This one is made of aluminium with a fibreglass outer shell and has an actual command module hatch. It was used by Apollo astronauts, including the crew of Apollo 11, to practice routine and emergency exits. The interior was later fitted with actual or mockup components to simulate the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft and the five-person rescue vehicle planned for use if an emergency developed during the Skylab program.

The actual Apollo 11 Command Module is also on display at the National Air & Space Museum.

Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia
Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, National Air & Space Museum

Following splashdown, Michael Collins crawled back into the Command Module and wrote this short note on one of the equipment bay panels. It reads: Spacecraft 107, alias Apollo 11, alias ‘Columbia.’ The Best Ship to Come Down the Line. God Bless Her. Michael Collins, CMP

Following splashdown, Michael Collins crawled back into the Command Module and wrote this short note on one of the equipment bay panels.
Following splashdown, Michael Collins crawled back into the Command Module and wrote this short note on one of the equipment bay panels.

To date, the Saturn V remains the only launch vehicle able to lift spacecraft large enough to carry humans beyond low Earth orbit. Designed to fly three Apollo astronauts to the moon and back, the Saturn V made its first unmanned test flight in 1967. A total of 15 flight-capable vehicles were built, but only 13 were flown. An additional three vehicles were built for ground testing purposes. A total of 24 astronauts were launched to the Moon, three of them twice, in the four years spanning December 1968 through December 1972.

1:48 Scale Model of Saturn V Launch Vehicle
1:48 Scale Model of Saturn V Launch Vehicle, National Air & Space Museum

This model shows the location of the Saturn V rocket’s components, including the instrument unit – the black band between the Saturn’s third stage (the S-IVB) and its payload. For missions to the Moon, the payload consisted (from the instrument unit up) of the lunar module, encased within a protective conical covering; the service module and the command module. At the top was the launch escape system, used only in emergency and jettisoned once the rocket has ascended safely off the launch pad.

The instrument unit guided the three-stage rocket from launch, to Earth orbit and finally to the transfer from Earth orbit to lunar trajectory. Once the astronauts were headed toward the Moon, the Apollo guidance computer in the command module took over guidance and navigation functions.

Vehicle Assembly Building
Vehicle Assembly Building, Kennedy Space Centre

The Vehicle Assembly Building, at Kennedy Space Centre, was completed in 1966 to allow for the vertical assembly of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo program. 14 Saturn V rockets were processed for the Apollo Program and the Skylab space station in the VAB.

The Apollo 11 rocket towers over the Kennedy Space Center’s crawlerway during the May 20, 1969 rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A. The Saturn V launched astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin on the first lunar landing mission two months later Credits: NASA
The Apollo 11 rocket towers over the Kennedy Space Center’s crawlerway during the May 20, 1969 rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A. NASA Photograph
View towards the historic launch complex 39A where the Apollo and space shuttle missions began
View towards the historic launch complex 39A where the Apollo and space shuttle missions began
Walking in the footsteps of Apollo 11
Walking in the footsteps of Apollo 11

Little Puffles and Honey walked in the footsteps of the astronauts that went to the Moon. On July 16, 1969, more than 30 stories above the launch pad of the huge Saturn V rocket, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin walked across this very service arm, stretching from the launch umbilical tower to the Command Module of Apollo 11.

Out of This World

At the end of the walkway was the ‘White Room’, the last stop for astronauts before lift-off. Here, the White Room Crew made a final check of spacesuits and assisted the astronauts into their flight positions. They hooked them up to essential communications and life support systems, and sealed the hatch.

Apollo Command Module Model with the 'White Room' hugging it
Apollo Command Module Model with the ‘White Room’ hugging it
Apollo Command Module model at the end of the walkway
Apollo Command Module model at the end of the walkway

Check out these cool photos of the Moon from the Apollo program.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

The first stamp is from Kennedy Space Centre, the second stamp is from Space Centre Houston, the third stamp is from Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum….

That was fun! We saw the Enterprise there!

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

OV-101 Enterprise Dates of service: September 1976 to November 1985 Missions flown: Five atmospheric glide tests Time in space: 0 Total orbits flown: 0
OV-101 Enterprise
Dates of service: September 1976 to November 1985
Missions flown: Five atmospheric glide tests
Time in space: 0
Total orbits flown: 0
OV-101 Enterprise
OV-101 Enterprise

Enterprise was built as the prototype orbiter to test the aerodynamic flight worthiness of the orbiter design. In 1977, it performed 16 missions for the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) while mated to the Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. The final five missions included separation and glide test flights.

Enterprise visited the Paris Air Show during a publicity tour of Europe in 1983 and was a featured exhibition at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans.

Even after its retirement to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum in 1985, Enterprise was used for several NASA tests. Enterprise components also played a critical role in the investigation of the Columbia accident.

When NASA retired the shuttle fleet in 2011, it wanted to repurpose Enterprise and the other three surviving decommissioned orbiters, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, as educational inspirations. Several American museums competed to serve as the permanent homes of these historic artefacts. Enterprise was awarded to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. On March 13, 2013, Enterprise became the first space shuttle to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Certificate of Retirement of Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise (OV-101) and Assignment of Title from NASA to Intrepid Museum Foundation
Certificate of Retirement of Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise (OV-101) and Assignment of Title from NASA to Intrepid Museum Foundation

The Space Shuttle orbiter was the reusable spaceplane component of the Space Shuttle program. Six orbiters were built for flight: Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.

OV-101 Enterprise On public display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City
OV-101 Enterprise
On public display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City
OV-102 Columbia Columbia and its crew of seven astronauts tragically perished during atmospheric re-entry at the end of mission STS-107 on February 1, 2003
OV-102 Columbia
Columbia and its crew of seven astronauts tragically perished during atmospheric re-entry at the end of mission STS-107 on February 1, 2003
OV-099 Challenger On January 28, 1986, the seven astronauts of mission STS-51L tragically perished when Challenger broke apart shortly after liftoff.
OV-099 Challenger
On January 28, 1986, the seven astronauts of mission STS-51L tragically perished when Challenger broke apart shortly after liftoff.
OV-103 Discovery On public display at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in Chantilly, Virginia.
OV-103 Discovery
On public display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in Chantilly, Virginia.
OV-104 Atlantis On public display at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex in Florida.
OV-104 Atlantis
On public display at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex in Florida.
OV-105 Endeavour On public display at the California Science Centre in Los Angeles, California.
OV-105 Endeavour
On public display at the California Science Centre in Los Angeles, California.

All orbiters were built in Palmdale, California, by the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Rockwell International company. The first orbiter, Enterprise, made its maiden flight in 1977. An unpowered glider, it was carried by a modified Boeing 747 airliner called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and released for a series of atmospheric test flights and landings. The remaining orbiters were fully operational spacecraft, and were launched vertically as part of the Space Shuttle stack.

Model replica of Shuttle Endeavour
Model replica of Shuttle Endeavour, Space Centre Houston

The space shuttle system, officially called the Space Transportation System (STS), consisted of the orbiter vehicle (OV), its twin solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and a giant external fuel tank (EFT).

The space shuttle was initially used to deploy satellites in orbit; to carry scientific experiments such as Spacelab, a modular arrangement of experiments installed in the shuttle’s cargo bay; and to carry out military missions. As the program matured, the space shuttle also has been used to assemble, service and repair the International Space Station; deploy, service and repair orbiting satellites; and to retrieve and return to earth previously deployed spacecraft.

The Enterprise made its way to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in 2012. The journey started in April when Enterprise was flown from Washington, DC to JFK atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905 (on display at Space Centre Houston).

Enterprise flies over the Empire State Building
Enterprise flies over the Empire State Building
As Enterprise flies over the Statue of Liberty, the NASA plane that accompanied it can be seen behind.
As Enterprise flies over the Statue of Liberty, the NASA plane that accompanied it can be seen behind.
Safe landing: Enterprise landed at John F. Kennedy Airport before going to its new home in New York City at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
Safe landing: Enterprise landed at John F. Kennedy Airport before going to its new home in New York City at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Enterprise sits atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905 (on display at Independence Plaza, Space Centre Houston) after landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on April 27, 2012 for ceremonial delivery to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Enterprise sits atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905 (on display at Independence Plaza, Space Centre Houston) after landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on April 27, 2012 for ceremonial delivery to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Next the orbiter was carefully craned onto a barge for a multi-day trip from JFK to NJ and then up the Hudson River – passing the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tower – to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

On July 19th, the Space Shuttle Pavilion, featuring Enterprise, opened to the public with much fanfare during SpaceFest – a five-day public event featuring astronaut appearances, NASA displays, a concert and special movie screening.

The flight over New York City was captured in a 50,000 brick Lego mosaic.

Lego mosaic (1.8m x 1.8m) of the Enterprise atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as it soars over New York City
Lego mosaic (1.8m x 1.8m) of the Enterprise atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as it soars over New York City

The Lego mosaic was collectively built in sections (using a colour-coded template) by hundreds of museum visitors (children and families) from July 26-28, 2013. Master brick builder Ed Diment assembled the sections to create the full image.

Space Shuttle Enterprise gave the public its first look at the new space shuttle fleet. Almost immediately, Enterprise inspired films, television and music. Scale models, toys and games were manufactured during this period, illustrating the power of the shuttle in the popular imagination and consumer culture.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Two years before its first orbital flight, the space shuttle made its film debut in the James Bond film Moonraker (1979). In the film, James Bond investigates the hijacking of a Moonraker space shuttle, which was modelled on NASA’s spacecraft. The space shuttle later featured in other movies, including Space Camp (1986), Armageddon (1998) and Space Cowboys (2000).

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

The story of Enterprise’s name illustrates how popular culture can inspire science. This prototype orbiter was originally named “Constitution” in honour of the US bicentennial in 1976. It was scheduled to be unveiled on Constitution Day, September 17, 1976. However, more than 400,000 fans of the television show Star Trek successfully petitioned President Gerald Ford to change the name to Enterprise in celebration of the series’ fictional starship.

In 1976, the Star Trek cast posed with Enterprise - named after Captain Kirk's and Spock's craft. L-R: NASA's James D. Fletcher, DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), James Doohan (Scotty), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), Gene Rodenberry (creator of Star Trek), an unidentified man, and Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Checkov)
In 1976, the Star Trek cast posed with Enterprise – named after Captain Kirk’s and Spock’s craft. L-R: NASA’s James D. Fletcher, DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (Mr. Sulu), James Doohan (Scotty), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), Gene Rodenberry (creator of Star Trek), an unidentified man, and Walter Koenig (Ensign Pavel Checkov)

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

On display in the Space Shuttle Pavilion is a restored model of a Star Trek shuttlecraft!

Star Trek Shuttlecraft Galileo
Star Trek Shuttlecraft Galileo

“Captain to shuttlecraft Galileo. Stand by, Mr Spock.”

On Star Trek, shuttlecraft carried crew members of the starship USS Enterprise on short trips in space. Shuttlecraft were mentioned in early episodes of the original series but not shown. The production could not afford to build a model, and transporter special effects were cheaper.

In episode 16, viewers got their first look at a shuttlecraft, Galileo. This life-sized prop debuted in “The Galileo Seven” on January 5, 1967. Galileo, commanded by Mr Spock, crash-lands on a hostile planet. The fictional Galileo did not survive the episode. The model lived on, appearing in six other episodes.

Star Trek Shuttlecraft Galileo
Star Trek Shuttlecraft Galileo

After Star Trek was cancelled in 1969, the model bounced from owner to owner. The wood and metal prop were not designed to last for decades, and its condition deteriorated. In 2012, the shuttlecraft underwent a complete restoration. The team drew on photographs, footage and input from fans to bring the shuttlecraft back to its original appearance.

Space Centre Houston

Little Puffles and Honey are reminiscing about their visit to Kennedy Space Centre and Space Centre Houston.

Space Center Houston

Independence Plaza
Independence Plaza

They went straight to Independence Plaza presented by Boeing. The exhibit consists of a full-size shuttle replica mounted on an actual shuttle carrier aircraft, and they visited both vehicles, after promising that they were not going to attempt to take off in them 🙂

Independence Plaza - Full-scale, high-fidelity shuttle replica Independence on the actual Shuttle Aircraft Carrier 905
Independence Plaza – Full-scale, high-fidelity shuttle replica Independence on the actual Shuttle Aircraft Carrier 905

Space Centre Houston

Both the shuttle and carrier feature interior exhibits featuring the flight deck and cockpit of the shuttle, astronaut living quarters mid-deck, history on the development of the shuttle program, and how the carrier aircraft docks with shuttles.

Learning all about the space shuttle orbiters
Learning all about the space shuttle orbiters
Model replica of Shuttle Endeavour
Model replica of Shuttle Endeavour
Model of the shuttle and the shuttle aircraft carrier in the exhibit inside the Shuttle Aircraft Carrier 905
Model of the shuttle and the shuttle aircraft carrier in the exhibit inside the Shuttle Aircraft Carrier 905
Stairs to the upper level of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) 905
Stairs to the upper level of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) 905
Original American Airlines first-class seats in the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905
Original American Airlines first-class seats in the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905
Film covering the history of space shuttle program as well as a special tribute to the crew members of the Challenger and Columbia missions - exhibit inside the Shuttle Aircraft Carrier 905
Film covering the history of space shuttle program as well as a special tribute to the crew members of the Challenger and Columbia missions – exhibit inside the Shuttle Aircraft Carrier 905

NASA 905 is the iconic Shuttle Carrier Aircraft that ferried NASA’s space shuttles to and from launch and landing sites for 35 years.

Built in 1970 and acquired by NASA from American Airlines in 1974, the 747 was flown in wake vortex research studies by NASA’s Flight Research Center, now the Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, before being modified by Boeing for its new role as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). It carried the prototype shuttle Enterprise aloft in 1977 and launched it five times during the space shuttle Approach and Landing Tests at NASA Dryden.

NASA 905 then underwent further modifications for the ferry flight role it would have over more than three decades. It flew 70 of the 87 ferry flights during the shuttle program’s operational phase, including 46 of the 54 post-mission ferry flights from NASA Dryden to the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA 905 last service for the Space Shuttle Program was to ferry the Enterprise and the operational shuttles Discovery and Endeavour to their new homes: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington DC and California Science Centre in Los Angeles respectively, in 2012.

Space Centre Houston

Mounted atop NASA 905 is “Independence” a high-fidelity, full-size shuttle mockup outfitted with a detailed interior of the cockpit, crew cabin and payload bay.

Shuttle Replica Independence Flight Deck
Shuttle Replica Independence Flight Deck
Shuttle Replica Independence Mid-Deck
Shuttle Replica Independence Mid-Deck
Independence Plaza - Full-scale, high-fidelity shuttle replica Independence on the actual Shuttle Aircraft Carrier 905
Independence Plaza – Full-scale, high-fidelity shuttle replica Independence on the actual Shuttle Aircraft Carrier 905

Chronologically organised, the Starship Gallery provides a general sense of the history of rocketry, the space race and the US human spaceflight. The timeline starts in 1926 with a replica of Robert Goddard’s first liquid-fuelled rocket and ends with a mock-up of the Space Shuttle. Exhibits emphasise human spaceflight programs beginning with Project Mercury and ending with Apollo 17, by summarising the goals of each program while highlighting other events occurring in the US at the same time. Included are newspaper headlines that show the tensions of the 1960s and early 1970s: the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam and the death of a popular young president.

Starship Gallery
Starship Gallery
Starship Gallery
Starship Gallery

The main attractions are actual capsules from the various spaceflight programs.

Faith 7 was the final Mercury spacecraft to go into orbit. Piloted by Gordon Cooper, Faith 7 flew May 15-16, 1963, and was in orbit for 34 hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds, orbiting the Earth 22.5 times. With that flight, Cooper set the record at the time for spaceflight by an American. Cooper selected the name “Faith 7” for his spacecraft to express his faith in his fellow workers, his faith in the spaceflight hardware that had been so carefully tested, his faith in himself and his faith in God. All the Mercury missions bore the number 7 to honor the teamwork and collaboration of the first seven astronauts in American history.

Early spacecraft were called “capsules” because they were so small. “You don’t climb into the Mercury spacecraft, you put it on,” John Glenn once said. The size and shape of the capsule was dictated by reentry requirements and the launching capability of the rockets available at the time. Scientists and engineers determined the capsule should have a rounded bottom to safely ablate heat when traveling through the atmosphere and to safely splashdown during ocean landings.

Starship Gallery - Faith 7 Mercury Spacecraft - the actual Mercury capsule flown by astronaut Gordon Cooper on May 15-16, 1963, the last mission of the Mercury Project.
Starship Gallery – Faith 7 Mercury Spacecraft – the actual Mercury capsule flown by astronaut Gordon Cooper on May 15-16, 1963, the last mission of the Mercury Project.
Starship Gallery - Faith 7 Mercury Spacecraft
Starship Gallery – Faith 7 Mercury Spacecraft

Both the Gemini and Apollo programs followed the basic design of Mercury. On August 21, 1965, the third crewed Gemini flight went up with Charles “Pete” Conrad and Gordon Cooper on a mission that lasted just shy of eight days, setting a new record for longest human space flight that was three days longer than the previous Soviet Union record. Conrad and Cooper circled the Earth 120 times on that trip.

Starship Gallery - Gemini V Spacecraft
Starship Gallery – Gemini V Spacecraft

Designed to take two astronauts at a time, the Gemini Program was aptly named after the constellation, whose name in Greek means “Twins”. Gemini V was significant because of its duration. To get to the moon would take eight days, so this groundbreaking mission helped NASA engineers determine how well fuel cells would hold up to that journey.

Conrad dubbed the mission “eight days in a garbage can”, thanks to the cramped quarters of the Gemini cabin and later wished for a book to pass the time. Gemini capsules look like enlarged versions of the Mercury capsules. Although the Gemini capsules weighed twice as much as their Mercury counterparts, they offered only slightly more cabin space.

Starship Gallery - Gemini 5 Spacecraft - the actual Gemini spacecraft in which astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad flew for the Gemini 5 mission, August 21-29, 1965, the third manned flight of the Gemini Program.
Starship Gallery – Gemini 5 Spacecraft – the actual Gemini spacecraft in which astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad flew for the Gemini 5 mission, August 21-29, 1965, the third manned flight of the Gemini Program.

Apollo 17 was the last Apollo mission to the moon. Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt, the first scientist to travel into space, brought back 110 kilograms of lunar samples and spent 75 hours on the surface of the moon. While there, Schmitt and Cernan traveled 30.5 kilometers in the lunar rover and set up a sixth automated research station.

Starship Gallery -  Apollo 17 Command Module - the actual, flown Command Module, the last manned spacecraft to have travelled to the Moon.
Starship Gallery – Apollo 17 Command Module – the actual, flown Command Module, the last manned spacecraft to have travelled to the Moon.

Eugene Cernan, who was the last person to stand on the moon, left Earth’s lunar satellite with these words, “I believe history will record that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the moon at Taurus Littrow, we leave as we come and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

Starship Gallery - Apollo 17 Command Module
Starship Gallery – Apollo 17 Command Module

Though humans can theoretically walk or run nearly as fast on the moon as on Earth, bulky space suits made movement awkward for the Apollo astronauts on the lunar surface. Enter the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Rovers were taken to the moon’s surface (and left there) on the last three Apollo missions. Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt practiced on the actual Lunar Rover trainer displayed in the Starship Gallery.

Starship Gallery - Lunar Rover Trainer - the actual trainer used by astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin (Apollo 15), John Young and Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) and Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt (Apollo 17)
Starship Gallery – Lunar Rover Trainer – the actual trainer used by astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin (Apollo 15), John Young and Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) and Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt (Apollo 17)

Other astronauts that practiced on this Lunar Rover were Dave Scott and Jim Irwin (Apollo 15), John Young and Charlie Duke (Apollo 16).

The rover has no steering wheel or brakes, since neither are needed on the airless lunar surface. It was started, steered and stopped by a single control located between the seats. The electric-powered rover could travel at almost 15 kph and had a range of about 89 kilometers. It was equipped with a TV camera, which recorded the astronauts’ exploration of the moon and liftoff of the top half of the Lunar Module when the astronauts left the moon.

Echoes of this lunar rover design can be seen in the Mars rovers such as Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.

Starship Gallery - Lunar Rover Vehicle Trainer
Starship Gallery – Lunar Rover Vehicle Trainer
Starship Gallery - On the Moon!
Starship Gallery – On the Moon!

The the largest artifact inside Space Center Houston is the Skylab 1-G Trainer, a training facility for the Skylab space station that orbited earth throughout the 1970s. Skylab 1-G Trainer is so large that the designers could not hope to fit it through any doors. The building was constructed around it.

This is the actual trainer used by astronauts to train for life aboard Skylab, the first American space station. After Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, Skylab was designed to develop methods of living and working in space for long periods of time. It also functioned as the first telescope in space and served as a laboratory to study how the human body adapts to long duration exposure to a microgravity environment. The space station was created by converting the final stage of a Saturn V moon rocket into a habitable spacecraft and lining it with experiments and equipment. The Skylab crews had plenty of room. The space inside was about 355 cubic meters, about the same size as a three bedroom house and almost as comfortable. Crews had individual bunks, a ward room, personal libraries and even a shower. Three crews spent a total of 171 days on-board Skylab and conducted a wide array of research.

Skylab 1-G Trainer
Skylab 1-G Trainer
Skylab 1-G Trainer
Skylab 1-G Trainer
1:20 Model of Skylab - The First US Space Station
1:20 Model of Skylab – The First US Space Station
The Apollo Telescope Mount, or ATM, was a solar observatory attached to Skylab,
The Apollo Telescope Mount, or ATM, was a solar observatory attached to Skylab,

The Astronaut Gallery exhibit features spacesuits dating back to the first American trip to space. It is the world’s best and most comprehensive collection of spacesuits.

Astronaut Gallery - Launch and Entry Suit
Astronaut Gallery – Launch and Entry Suit

Inside the Astronaut Gallery, the Gallery Wall is adorned with the portraits and crew photos of every United States Astronaut who has flown in space.

Astronaut Gallery
Astronaut Gallery
Astronaut Gallery
Astronaut Gallery
Astronaut Gallery
Astronaut Gallery

Another replica shuttle flight deck offerred the opportunity to try out the Commander and Pilot seats again 🙂

Replica Shuttle Flight Deck
Replica Shuttle Flight Deck
Shuttle Flight Deck, Puffles as Commander, Honey as Pilot
Shuttle Flight Deck, Puffles as Commander, Honey as Pilot

The Orion capsule gives visitors a special glimpse at deep space exploration and how NASA will transport astronauts to the moon, asteroids and eventually Mars. This full-scale engineering model of the flown Orion capsule, on loan from Lockheed Martin, was used to train astronauts to enter and exit the spacecraft.

Full-scale engineering model of the flown Orion capsule
Full-scale engineering model of the flown Orion capsule

Orion may resemble its Apollo-era predecessors, but its technology and capabilities are much more advanced. The Orion spacecraft features dozens of technology advancements and innovations that have been incorporated into its subsystem and component design. To support long-duration deep space missions of up to six months, Orion engineers developed a state-of-the-art spacecraft with unique life support, propulsion, avionics and thermal protection systems.

Building upon the best of both the Apollo and shuttle-era designs, the Orion spacecraft includes both crew and service modules, a spacecraft adaptor and a revolutionary launch abort system that will significantly increase crew safety. Orion’s crew module is much larger than Apollo’s and can support more crew members for short or long duration spaceflight missions. The service module is the powerhouse that fuels and propels the spacecraft as well as the storehouse for the life-sustaining air and water astronauts need during their space travels. The service module’s structure also will provide places to mount scientific experiments and cargo.

Orion is capable of supporting low Earth orbit missions or transporting astronauts on a variety of expeditions into deep space – ushering in a new era of space exploration. Orion can carry astronauts to the International Space Station, deliver cargo for resupply and remain on orbit under its own power supply to serve as an emergency escape vehicle for the crew onboard.

Orion
Orion

Orion successfully completed its first trip to space in December 2014 without humans aboard, testing many of the riskiest events it will endure when it takes astronauts to deep space destinations. Orion’s next Exploration Mission 1 will launch atop the world’s most powerful rocket, NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS). Orion’s Exploration Mission 1 will be flown without a crew and will be controlled remotely as it flies 70,000 km beyond the moon. The capsule will be attached to a European-made ‘service module’. Everything is expected to be ready for the flight and the first test of the biggest rocket ever built in November 2018. The launch is expected to take place from pad 39B at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida.

Puffles and Honey could not finish their adventure at Space Centre Houston without a ride in the Morphis simulator.

That was a bit wobbly!

Descending the stairs from the simulator
Descending the stairs from the simulator

To Jupiter and Beyond

Little astrobears are very busy and not to be disturbed 🙂

To Jupiter and Beyond

They have established communications with Galileo Galilei, Jupiter and Juno, the three Lego figures who have piloted the 3.6-tonne solar-powered probe Juno to Jupiter 🙂

An artist's rendering of Juno flying by Jupiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech
An artist’s rendering of Juno flying by Jupiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech
The final view captured by Juno before its non-essential instruments powered down to prepare to enter Jupiter’s orbit. It was still 3.3 million miles away from its destination. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
The final view captured by Juno before its non-essential instruments powered down to prepare to enter Jupiter’s orbit. It was still 5.3 million kilometers away from its destination. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Yes, the probe is named after the ancient Roman goddess Juno, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife – we’ll not dwell on that!) of the Roman god of sky and thunder, and king of gods, Jupiter, and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Jupiter was a rather naughty deity, who used clouds to hide what he was up to, but his wife Juno was always able to see through them – hence the magnifying glass of discovery in her Lego hand.

The three Lego figures orbiting Jupiter - Galileo, holding a telescope, Juno, holding a magnifying glass of discovery and Jupiter, holding lightning
The three Lego figures orbiting Jupiter – Galileo, holding a telescope, Juno, holding a magnifying glass of discovery and Jupiter, holding lightning

And yes, the probe is carrying three Lego figures, made by Lego especially for NASA out of space-grade aluminium to survive the trip and the highly radioactive, gaseous planet.

Jupiter and Juno installed on the Juno spacecraft
Jupiter and Juno installed on the Juno spacecraft NASA/LEGO
Galileo installed on the Juno spacecraft
Galileo installed on the Juno spacecraft NASA/LEGO

Lego have also done a whole space tie-in with NASA on their website.

The mini-metal figures are joined on the spacecraft by another “special passenger”, one that also pays tribute to Galileo, from the Italian Space Agency.

A plaque dedicated to and depicting Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei as seen on board NASA's Juno spacecraft. (NASA)
A plaque dedicated to and depicting Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei as seen on board NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (NASA)

The graphic on the plaque shows a self-portrait of Galileo and the plaque also includes — in Galileo’s own hand — a passage he made in 1610 of observations of Jupiter, as was archived in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence, Italy.

Galileo, Juno and Jupiter have been flying around the other Jupiter for two weeks now and they have a few interesting things to report. The astrobears are all ears 🙂

To Jupiter and Beyond

Jupiter is twice as massive as all the other planets combined.
Jupiter is twice as massive as all the other planets combined.
Jupiter's gravity is so strong that a rocket would have to go an unthinkable 135,000 mph to leave.
Jupiter’s gravity is so strong that a rocket would have to go an unthinkable 135,000 mph to leave.
Jupiter's magnetosphere is the biggest object in the solar system. Its magnetic field is 20 times stronger than Earth's.
Jupiter’s magnetosphere is the biggest object in the solar system. Its magnetic field is 20 times stronger than Earth’s.
Jupiter has a swirling storm twice the width of Earth that's raged for at least the last 150 years called the Great Red Spot.
Jupiter has a swirling storm twice the width of Earth that’s raged for at least the last 150 years called the Great Red Spot.
Jupiter spins faster than any planet, so its day is only about 10 Earth-hours long.
Jupiter spins faster than any planet, so its day is only about 10 Earth-hours long. Well! That’s just not enough play time!
The temperature near Jupiter's core may be about 24,000 degrees Celsius — hotter than the surface of the sun.
The temperature near Jupiter’s core may be about 24,000 degrees Celsius — hotter than the surface of the sun.
If it was 80 times more massive, Jupiter would have become a star instead of a planet.
If it was 80 times more massive, Jupiter would have become a star instead of a planet.
Jupiter has the most moons of any planet in the solar system at 67 confirmed. Galileo found the first four in 1610: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Jupiter has the most moons of any planet in the solar system at 67 confirmed. Galileo found the first four in 1610: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
As a gas giant, Jupiter is mostly made of hydrogen and helium, so its surface isn't solid.
As a gas giant, Jupiter is mostly made of hydrogen and helium, so its surface isn’t solid.
The monster planet spins around so fast with so much gravity that it acts like a slingshot to any space debris that come near it. Juno will get closer than any spacecraft before it — here's hoping it makes it out alive.
The monster planet spins around so fast with so much gravity that it acts like a slingshot to any space debris that come near it. Juno will get closer than any spacecraft before it — here’s hoping it makes it out alive.