Thursday, December 17, 2009

Want a Shuttle?

Although this has sat off Florida State Route 3 south of Kennedy Space Center since 2005, I just now got around to posting it in the Field Guide. Being on my way to the office, I could see it every day. I remember noticing the large blue tarp covered structure and thinking it was shaped like a space shuttle nose, but it wasn't until after a bad storm when wind blew down the tarp that revealed what it was. One day, not long after the storm, a car was parked nearby and the gate was open. I met Chuck ryan, who began building the mockup as an engineering project while attending the California Polytechnic State University. He brought it out to Florida at the request of NASA to be used as an emergency trainer by the KSC Fire and Rescue Department. At the time I met Chuck, the site had flooded and I could not enter. But the tarp was replaced, occasionally being disarrayed by other wind storms.

Last week, the tarp was removed, the windows covered (the red covers are similar to those that protect the orbiter's windows) and a new name painted on: Resolution! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the name). At least it is now clearly apparent what it is.

I know Chuck would like to find a good home for his baby, preferably one that helps protect it from further destruction by the elements. It has a crew cabin including a fully equipped flight deck.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spacecraft of the Week #14

A couple weeks ago we honored Gemini VII as the Spacecraft of the Week. This week, we do the same for its counterpart, Gemini VI. Due to the loss of its intended target vehicle, Gemini VI, crewed by Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford, was delayed until after the long-duration mission of Gemini VII began. This was the first time Americans had two spacecraft in orbit simultaneously, and gave mission controllers crucial experience that would be needed by the Apollo missions.

Gemini VI spent many years in the city of its creation, St. Louis, Missouri, at the St. Louis Science Center. In 2003, it was moved to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center where it underwent a cleaning and refurbishment. The pilot door was reattached and the capsule was placed in one of the Comosphere's new spacecraft display cases. It was then moved to Oklahoma City where it spent a few years at the Omniplex Science Museum. In 2007, it moved to the center of the city where it currently resides at the Oklahoma History Center in a display that honors all of Oklahoma's astronauts. It should be noted the Thomas Stafford is a native a Weatherford, Oklahoma, just 30 miles west of Oklahoma City. Occasionally, that helps if you are looking to display a flown spacecraft.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Spacecraft of the Week #13

This week we honor the final Apollo moon flight and make the Apollo 17 Command Module America the Spacecraft of the Week. Launched on Pearl Harbor day, December 7 in the year 1972, Apollo 17 was the most ambitious lunar mission to date. Carrying Gene Cernan, Ron Evans and Harrison Schmidt to the moon, America would remain in orbit with Evans while Cernan and Schmidt lived in the moon for three days. Many people call the "last" mission to the moon. I like to refer to it as the most recent. I refuse to believe that we will not again venture out into that "magnificent desolation". We can do it, if we have the will. And it will drive the economy up more than and faster than any stimulus package.

You can find America at Space Center Houston, Houston Texas. Although displayed in subdued lighting, it is uncovered (save the hatch area covered with plexiglas) so up close detailed photography is possible besides the artistic mood shots (as I try to illustrate). It is also displayed with a flown Mercury (Faith 7) and Gemini (Gemini V), one of only two places in the world where the three flown and manned spacecraft can be seen in the same room, the other being the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. So to honor all those who made the lunar missions possible, and to look forward toward more to come, we salute Apollo 17 as our Spacecraft of the Week.