Wednesday, March 11, 2015

National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, Space Wing

One wing of the gigantic Udvar-Hazy Center is dedicated to outer space travel. The highlight is the space shuttle Discovery, around which all the other spacecraft and satellites are placed.

Space wing of Udvar-Hazy

Reading about Discovery

Space shuttle Discovery was the longest-serving shuttle, from 1984 to 2011. It spent a total of 365 days in space spread out over 39 missions. It docked twice with the Russian Mir space station and thirteen times with the International Space Station. It deployed several satellites and performed service missions on the Hubble Space Telescope. It was the first shuttle back in space after the Challenger and Columbia tragedies. Discovery was the first spaceship to have a female pilot, Eileen Collins in 1995, and had the first African American commander, Frederick Gregory in 1989. It came to the museum in 2012.

J by the nose

Other side of the nose

Tail section

Tail rockets

A fun display is the Apollo landing capsule that still has its floatation bags on it. When they landed in the sea, the capsules would have sunk like a rock if not for these safety measures.

Apollo capsule with flotation bags

Many models of Delta and Titan rockets are on display.

Delta and Titan rocket models

Behind them is a Sirius FM-4 Broadcasting Satellite. It's the "satellite" in satellite radio!

Sirius FM satellite

A much older communication satellite is Echo 1, launched in 1960 for the simple purpose of catching a radio transmission aimed at it and then re-broadcasting that signal in a different direction. The deployed satellite is a reflective sphere 100 feet in diameter, so it was launched folded flat and would inflate in space into its balloon shape. This backup satellite is still packed in its canister. It was never launched!

Echo 1

Another unlaunched gem is the Freedom 7 II, a Mercury capsule that was supposed to take Alan Shepherd (the first American in space) back on another mission in late 1963. After the success of the prior Mercury mission, NASA switched its attention to the Gemini project and cancelled Shepherd's solo launch. The name is a tribute to Shepherd's first capsule, the Freedom 7, which he took to space in 1961.

Freedom 7 II

Hanging out over the shuttle is a sample of a space suit designed for extra-vehicular activity.

EVA suit

The exhibit also has some classic items from science fiction, including a model of the mother ship from the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Mother ship from Close Encounters

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