And then we discovered another shuttle at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC!
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! 🙂
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.
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.
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 🙂
The Space Hangar also exhibits capsules and other artefacts of human space flight, space science, applications satellites and rockets and missiles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Columbia was first launched on April 12, 1981. It completed 27 missions before disintegrating during reentry on February 1, 2003.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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…
Wait, we need more cupcakes!
I still have my cupcake…
Ok, then… 🙂
Hmmm, let’s get some more before we continue with the story…