Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Spacecraft of the Week #4

Sometimes you find spacecraft in the oddest of locations. Last weeks SOTW, an Apollo boilerplate used as a time capsule, was originally located on a boulevard median in a small city. This weeks' spacecraft is also found on a a city street, but what it's history is remains unclear.

On the corner of Red Bluff Road and San Augustine Avenue in Pasedena, Texas, across from J.D. Parks Elementary School, a Mercury capsule complete with escape tower is mounted on a low pedestal. I don't know whether to list it as a boilerplate or a model. This has an air of authenticity that a fabricated model lacks, unfortunately due to the amount of deterioration that has taken place - a model would have been created to handle the weather. But several other questions arise besides its heritage. Why here? Nearby Johnson Space Center did not begin operations until Gemini IV, well after the completion of the Mercury project. Why is a lamp mounted on top of the escape tower aerospike? Normally, this would be for aircraft and indicate it may have once been mounted on a tall booster.

I last visited this capsule in February of 2005. Even though it was winter, the grounds were maintained and the shrubbery surrounding it was trimmed. Google Maps show it as still in this location, and Street View gives some good views of it. But the mystery remains behind the unique placement in this Houston suburb, and that is why I chose it for the Spacecraft of the Week.

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