It’s Yuri’s Night!
We need to make a bigger deal out of this.
It’s Yuri’s Night!
We need to make a bigger deal out of this.
From the time I was about six, I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut. Given my age, it was clear that the then-new Space Shuttle, or one of its successors, would be the vehicle I flew to space in. I had a plan–Air Force Academy, fly Blackbirds, test pilot school, then NASA. Other career paths popped into my head, but that was probably the most consistent one.
It was sometime in high school that I let go of it, realizing that, for me, it was not an attainable path. Sometime in college, it was replaced with “amature bike racer” as unattainable dream. But, I never lost my interest in space flight.
Where other sites, like Udvar-Hazy, simply have their orbiter sitting on its wheels, the KSC has mounted their orbiter at an angle, with multiple levels of viewing platforms–you can really see all over the spacecraft.
The exhibit hall had many other shuttle-era artifacts, such as this glider model. The film at the entrance explained that the director of the program that started the orbiter gathered his team to announce the project, throwing this glider over their heads. One thing I found amusing was how the film showed the delays the project had–a contrast to “we will get to the moon in this decade…”
The buildings are already being used for new programs, such as the Air Force’s X-37B.
They are one of three locations that have a Saturn V (the other two being the Johnson Space Center and the US Space and Rocket Center). In the building is a full-scale mock-up of the Apollo Command and Service Module.
Even though there is a fee for admission and it’s in the middle of nowhere, the KSC is probably the best place to see a Space Shuttle and really get a feel for it. For me, it was bittersweet, as it shows that this era of space flight, the one I grew up with, is truly over. Hopefully, the next chapter will be written soon.
The Nation Air and Space Museum on the Mall, as I noted, is a bit landlocked, and too small for many aircraft in the Smithsonian’s collection. To accommodate the larger vehicles in their collection, the Udvar-Hazy center opened in 2003 as an expansion to the center. There collection has expanded into this new space. I got to spend a brief time there once on a business trip; on our family vacation, I got to explore the space more fully.
When I was last here, they Space Shuttle Enterprise was the centerpiece of their collection. Since the retirement of the Shuttle fleet, it has been unfortunately moved to New York. The Enterpirse was used for the Approach and Landing Tests. It never went to space. In its place, the Space Shuttle Discovery was rolled in.
The collection’s F-14 was involved in combat in the 1989 Gulf of Sidra incident, shooting down a MiG-23.
We spent hours admiring this collection–perhaps second only to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in terms of size, but with much more significant aircraft.
While in Washington, we wanted to check out the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). The NASM is home to a variety of historically significant aircraft. As air and space geeks, it was heaven.
This research craft was flown in the Sixties. Three were built. One crashed, and the other is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. They set a number of records, and twice flew beyond the internationally recognized boundary into space (100 KM).
It was great to see all the significant aircraft. The only downside of the NASM is that it is a bit landlocked, with no room to grow. As a consequence, there is a limit to the size and quantity of aircraft they can house. However, the next day, we would get to see the solution to that problem.
The Airdock was used during World War II for the construction of military blimps. It is 55 million cubic feet of empty space–it’s large enough to have its own weather inside. Lockheed is looking at building new airships inside this large building.
Spring break for 2014 is low key, but we did spend a few days in Saint Louis, Missouri. On the way, we stopped near Bellville, Illinois. This is the home of Scott Air Force Base. In honor of the men and women who serve there, just outside the gate is Scott Field Heritage Air Park, a collection of the airlifters that were based at Scott.
The C-130 is perhaps the most successful transport aircraft ever produced. New models are still rolling off the factory line.
An example of each of these aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio. Typically, they have greater significance than the examples here. Their C-141, for instance, is known as the Hanoi Taxi, which brought the last of the US POWs back from Vietnam. However, one aircraft they lack is a C-9A Nightingale. A version of the McDonald Douglas DC-9 airliner, it was optimized for areomedical evacuation–it was practically a flying hospital.
What is significant about it, to me, is that my father flew the C-9. Scott AFB was his last posting while in the Air Force, and we lived there when I was in the first and second grade. He didn’t fly the example on display (it was in the Pacific Theater when we were at Scott), but definitely flew the type.
We didn’t spend terribly long there–if it wasn’t right off the Interstate, we probably wouldn’t have gone–but it was definitely good to show my daughter this bit of family history.
For a trip to Louisiana, Google Maps recommended going through Alabama. Only ten miles out of our way was Huntsville, Alabama. It is home to the United States Space and Rocket Center, which is affiliated with the Marshal Space Flight Center. A lot of early work on rockets was here, under the direction of Werner Von Braun, who helped design a variety of early United State rockets. As a family of geeks, we felt we had to stop.
Inside, laying on its side (similar to the one in Houston), is the actual Saturn V.
There were many Apollo artifacts on site as well, including the walkway to the “white room” at the top of the launch tower. This was the last walk the astronauts would take before boarding the capsule.
The US Space and Rocket Center is the only place where a “full stack” Space Shuttle is on display–orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket boosters all put together. The orbiter, Pathfinder, was a mock-up NASA built for testing procedures for mounting the shuttle made of wood and metal. It was purchased by a Japanese company for display, made to look more like the flight vehicle. It was later purchased and brought to Alabama.
“An astronaut is someone who’s able to make good decisions quickly, with incomplete information when the consequences really matter.”
Astronaut Chris Hadfield was on two space shuttle missions, as well as commanded the International Space Station earlier this year. He became well known for for savvy use of social media and music to get people excited about the space program. In his new book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, he continues this mission.
As you might expect, Commander Hadfield’s book is filled with stories from his time in the space program. But, what’s more, he explains the mindset of an astronaut. This mindset is one which I think can be applied to any field–I know it would work in my job. It can be characterized by hard work and preparation (“sweat the small stuff”), and thinking about how what you do can contribute to the overall operation, and learning everything you can, in case it becomes necessary.
A good example of thinking about how your contribution impacts the rest of the mission comes when he talks about aiming to be a zero. Hadfield talks about how you can be a “plus one” (a fully beneficial member of the mission), a negative one (who causes problems for the mission), or a zero. When entering a situation, Hadfield suggest being a zero: even if you think you can make significant contributions, holding back observing, and trying to not create problems. Once acclimated, start to ease towards “plus one” status.
I highly recommend this book. Not only does it give a fascinating look at the modern space program, but a great way to look at life.
While in Ottawa, we went to the Canadian Museum of Aviation and Space. As the name implies, it is a museum dedicated to planes and spacecraft that were notable to Canada. There were several notable artifacts.
Perhaps the most noteworthy was the nose of the Avro CF-105 Arrow, a fighter that was developed in Canada in the 1950s. Had it been completed, it would have been the most advanced interceptor of its day.
After about a year of test flights, the program was cancelled, under significant controversy. Adding insult to injury was that the prototypes and all the jigs and other equipment specific to is production were ordered destroyed. All that remains is the nose section on display at the museum behind a CF-18. Even that bit was done at a great deal of personal and professional risk to those who saved it. The Cf-105 is one of the many “what might have been” stories of aviation.
The museum had a bit of Hadfield-mania was present in the museum. The guitar he took on his first flight was on display.
Over the entry hall is a Canadiar CT-114 Tutor trainer, in the colors of the Snowbirds.
While a relatively small museum, it was a great overview of Canadian aerospace history, and had several unique pieces.
Our first stop on our summer vacation was the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum. It is located in Neil Armstrong’s birthplace, Wapakoneta, Ohio. They have many artifacts from the famous astronaut’s life.
Inside, there was the Areonca Champion he got his pilots license in, along with a model of the X-15 he flew as a test pilot.
The Gemini VII was Armstrong’s first mission into space. He saved his crew, quickly thinking to fire the retrorockets to compensate for a faulty thruster that had his ship in a spin. The capsule from that mission is on display.