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Entries in Spacecraft (13)


Temporary Parking

The Space Shuttle Endeavour in repose while awaiting the funding and construction of it's new exhibit space at the California Science Center at Exposition Park in Los Angeles.

Way to Go Big E!

This was such a great day! Kathy, my Mom and I all traveled to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour on display at the California Science Center. This building is a temporary structure which will be used until the new museum extension and Shuttle display area are built. While Endeavour will eventually be displayed in a launch configuration, complete with the huge orange external fuel tank and white solid rocket boosters, today you can walk underneath her. This allows very close inspection of the orbiter’s thermal tiles which clearly show the rigors of both launch and re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. If you are in the Los Angeles area I highly recommend going to see this amazing example of American ingenuity and innovation.



Welcome Home Endeavour

Welcome Home Endeavour, originally uploaded by big_pixel_pusher.

I’ve always been a big space nerd. I never cared if my friends, family or strangers thought I was odd for getting so excited and wrapped up with anything to do with the space program. When I was 7 years old I flew to the moon many times in a spacecraft of my own design (a discarded refrigerator box which I had dragged from the side of a dumpster into my backyard). My team and I spent many late nights (till almost 6:30 pm on school nights) installing the windows (my mom helped me cut holes in it) and installing the control panels (drew them with crayons) and toggle switches (Popsicle sticks). I installed a navigation computer (also drawn with crayons) and all of the other flight controls required to fly a box for a major appliance to the moon.

I really wanted to be an Astronaut so I drank a lot of Tang and waited for NASA to discover they badly needed the services of a 7 year old boy strung out on high fructose corn syrup.

Well NASA never did call, but I never lost my keen interest in the space program either. So I was still paying attention to developments when in 1975, Rockwell International's Downey, CA plant began assembly of OV-102 - Columbia, the first flyable and reusable space shuttle just a few miles from my home. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the plant (left the refrigerator box at home) to see Columbia being built.

6 years later in March of 1981 I sat in my living room, literally on the edge of my seat, staring at our TV as Columbia, having successfully orbited the earth 36 times, re-entered the atmosphere and headed for a landing at Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of California. Veteran Astronaut John Young was at the controls and sitting in the co-pilot seat was rookie Astronaut Bob Crippen. Bob was so taken with the view of our state from 135,000 feet he called out “What a way to come to California!” and urged John to take a moment to look. John, ever the professional pilot took a quick peek and said “the view hasn’t changed much”. Right about then I was startled when I heard what sounded like two distinct explosions. Columbia had just anounced its presence, slowing from supersonic to subsonic flight as the nose and tail set off a double sonic boom which rattled windows across Southern California.

Over the years NASA added more shuttles to the fleet and after tragically losing Challenger, obtained authorization from Congress to replace it with a new Space Shuttle which would be called Endeavour.

Designed and built in California, it is fitting that Endeavour returned home today. And I now 43 years past the age of 7, took my team (my mom) to Disneyland where we both witnessed Endeavour’s last flight and I dreamed for just a moment of summer evenings spent flying over the backyard.

So thanks Mom for never once crushing a little boy’s hopes and dreams and thanks Endeavour – Welcome home.


Space Race

Space Race, originally uploaded by big_pixel_pusher.

In the 1960's and 70's the United States and the Soviet Union were trying their best to outdo one another with feats in outer space. This hall at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, features many artifacts from this time period.


Starship Enterprise.... Kinda

The Space Shuttle Enterprise in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Smithsonian's Udvar Hazy Center Museum. Wow that was a mouthful. It's really quite amazing to walk into this hanger and see a space shuttle parked right in front of you. Even if that shuttle has never been in space. This was a test vehicle and was flown off the back of a specially modified 747. Astronaut and Enterprise test pilot John Young once mentioned that the Enterprise had the gliding characteristics of a brick. More Udvar Hazy Center images here.


The Flyer, Spirit and Columbia

In 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright flipped a coin to decide who would attempt the first controlled, powered flight in a heavier-than-air aircraft which they themselves had designed. Orville, a 32 year old bicycle mechanic won the coin toss.

24 years after their success, Charles Lindbergh flew alone from New York to Paris in the high wing monoplane the "Spirit of St. Louis”. You can see it hanging from the ceiling in this image on the left side. 150,000 cheering Parisians greeted him when he landed at Le Bourget. He was 25 years old.

42 years later he personally witnessed the launch of the giant Apollo 11 moon rocket topped by the Command Module "Columbia" which you can see in the foreground. The Columbia carried Michael Collins, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the Moon. And it was there on July 20, 1969 during the final moments before the landing when Neil had to take manual control of the Lunar Module "Eagle" because their targeting computer was guiding them to a landing spot covered with car size boulders. He successfully landed the Eagle with six seconds of fuel remaining. He was 39 years old.

Over 66 years these men in their twenties and thirties made world history as did everyone who supported their endeavors. Not just for the United States but for all mankind. It's just amazing to me that at one time all three historic flying machines resided in the Milestones of Flight Gallery at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. and anyone could just walk in and see them all at once.

When I am lucky enough to visit and I see kids and even adults just pass through this gallery and not really give any of the exhibits here a second glance, I wonder if they have any idea how historic these artifacts are and how they changed our world so profoundly.

This image is fairly unique. You might notice there are no people in it. This is very rare since the National Air and Space is the most visited museum in the world. Manny and I had just seen a few IMAX movies in the museum. We figured that by the time the last film had concluded, the museum would be closed. We planned to linger behind for a few minutes to let the crowd exit the building so I could get this and a few other shots before the security guards kicked us out (which they politely did).

(Note: The Wright Brother's 1903 flyer is now located in its own gallery and is displayed at floor level so guests can get a better look at it.)


Fly me to the moon

Fly me to the moon, originally uploaded by big_pixel_pusher.

This is an actual lunar module which was built to fly in space during project Apollo. Its mission was to separate from the command module, fly about a hundred miles away and then link up with it again. This is the second of two test Lunar Modules built. It was never used because the first test item worked perfectly during the Apollo 9 mission.


Earthbound Enterprise

Earthbound Enterprise, originally uploaded by big_pixel_pusher.

The only space shuttle ever built that never flew in space. The space shuttle Enterprise is on display at the Udvar Hazy center near Washington D.C.


Attention all Security Guards

If you want to get the attention of any Smithsonian Museum security guard, just lay down on the floor. This worked for me. Elapsed time about 10 seconds.


Hail Columbia

Hail Columbia, originally uploaded by big_pixel_pusher.

In July of 1969, Mike Collins, Edwin "Buzz Aldrin" and Neil Armstrong flew in this spacecraft and made history as part of the first manned space mission to land on another heavenly body.
This is the Apollo 11 Command Module which re-entered the earth's atmosphere at greater than 25,000 miles per hour and you can clearly see by it's burned and charred skin that it must have been a pure "E" ticket ride.
This photo was taken from the second floor of the National Air and Space Museum. Again they don't allow tripods so I used my trusty Gorillapod to steady my camera.