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.

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