Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spacecraft of the Week #5

This weeks spacecraft is actually a trainer, or rather a suite of trainers, that will soon be up for grabs to museums across the country. NASA has entered into an agreement with the General Accounting Office (GAO) to parcel out space shuttle artifacts to interested museums. A couple things to note about this, is that the agreement does not include the orbiters which is being covered under a separate solicitation (NASA has offered Discovery to the Smithsonian and will choose the location for the other two), and that the Smithsonian get first right of refusal under a longstanding agreement from the days of the Mercury program, and official NASA visitor centers get the second look before it opens to all comers on October 1.

Among the items are the shuttle trainers seen above at Building 9 of the Johnson Space Center. These trainers help accustom astronauts to the tasks that they will perform during their mission. The Full Fuselage Trainer (image left) is a complete mockup of an orbiter, minus the wings. Is is used to orient the astronauts with the locations of items and supplies they will find onboard. It is also used to train emergency egress training - if an orbiter's landing gear fails during landing, astronauts can blow a window and repel down from the cockpit. Located at top center in the image is the Crew Compartment Trainer. This is unique as it can be pitched up 90ยบ to train astros on how to board the craft at the pad. The item seen at the bottom is the Manipulator Development Facility, used to train those astronauts using the Remote Manipulator System or robot arm.

While there is a chance that some or all of these items will remain where they are and be a more integrated part of Space Center Houston's tour of JSC, or parceled out to other museums or NASA visitor centers remains to be seen. Hopefully, it means these important artifacts of our space program will be preserved and cared for for years to come.

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