Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Kind of Town

Today I am in Chicago for a conference, so I took the afternoon to revisit some old friends. Chicago is one of the few places that host the trifecta of historical spacecraft, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Interestingly, they are not found at the same location. While the Crown Space Center at the Museum of Science and Industry boasts Aurora 7 (Mercury) and the Apollo 8 Command Module, you have to travel up the lake front to the Adler Planetarium to see the Gemini 12 spacecraft.

The three are displayed very differently, and show an evolution of design. Aurora 7 is enclosed in a plastic shell, similar to it's sisters, with the exception of Faith 7 and Liberty Bell 7. These have been found to be less than ideal: while they prevent the unwanted touch of visitors, they tend to trap moisture and outgassing that occurs over time. Apollo 8 is displayed within a plexiglas pen. Being open to the room solves the problems stated, but now exposes the vehicle to have items thrown in and changes in the environment of the display area. Gemini 12 leads us to a technological solution developed by the good folks at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. Originating with it's display of the Liberty Bell 7, they have developed an environmentally controlled case that allows close examination of the spacecraft while protecting it. I expect we will see more and more displays like this, as spacecraft change location (I'll write about Apollo 14's move sometime soon), better ways to preserve the historic heritage will be implemented.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Some Fixes and a Titan Tale

On this fine holiday (observed) I was able to get in and fix some things in the Field Guide that had been creating some problems. There are still a few more things to work through but at least it looks nicer.

One update I did post is in relation the the Titan II that once stood at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's Rocket Garden. This booster was assessed following the trio of hurricanes that swept through the Space Coast in 2004. Now, I just told a lie, because what was in the Rocket Garden was not a Titan II, but a Titan I primary stage with a second Titan I upturned and stacked on top. A mockup of a Gemini spacecraft sat on top of that. Even so, it was determined that it was worth preserving. But to do so, it would need to be removed so interior work could be performed. The unstacking went as planned, but when the first stage was lifted a retaining ring sheered due to corrosion. A quick assessment found the booster could be saved, so it was placed in a storage yard at KSC.

In the meantime, the U.S. Air Force had discontinued use of all Titan II ICBMs and placd them in storage in its boneyard near Tuscon, Arizona. Some quick timing by KSC exhibits developer Luis Berrios snagged a complete Titan II before it could make its date with the shredder. This booster is now being prepared to represent one of its sisters, painted as one of the man-rated Titans that lofted the Gemini spacecraft to orbit. When it arrives at KSC, you'll be the first to know!

And the old booster? The one that was damaged? It has now made its way to the Johnson Space Center where it will join their Rocket Park sometime in the future. More pictures can be seen on the Field Guide.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

May I Ask?

A Field Guide to American Spacecraft has been a great hobby on mine over the last thirteen years, one that has introduced me to a lot of great friends and space enthusiasts from around the world. I am humbled each time I see it mentioned in a story or used as a reference, and that encourages me to continue and try to be as authoritative as possible. I hope to continue to provide this resource for many years.

With every hobby comes a certain expense, and this is no exception. It is one I gladly bare, but one I would ask know to share. On the navigation menu on the left of each Field Guide page you will find a 'Donate' button, as well as a link on the right of the blog in the 'Links' section. I've included it for any who would like to help out with the Field Guide. No amounts are listed, give as you like. To be clear, the Field Guide will continue regardless of any amount collected. If you like it and can contribute, my thanks. If not, please continue enjoying it knowing your pleasure makes it satisfying to me. And please don't forget to let me know of any sightings, corrections, or bugs that you find. Your help will make A Field Guide to American Spacecraft the most complete guide on the internet.

Your obedient servant,
Jim Gerard