FLYING Magazine

If you are a space enthusiast, you need to make the time for an up close and personal visit with one of America’s space shuttles. Designed to be reusable vehicles capable of flying in both atmosphere and space, for 30 years the shuttles transported astronauts from many nations to space and back, often rendezvousing with the International Space Station (ISS) where they transported crew and supplies.

A total of six shuttles were built. One was designed for atmospheric testing only and never went to space, and of the remaining five, two were lost during use. The Challenger was destroyed in 1986 when a solid rocket booster exploded shortly after takeoff, and the Columbia disintegrated during reentry in 2003.

The last shuttle mission took place in 2011, and then the shuttles became museum pieces—literally. Here’s where you can see these all important artifacts in aerospace history.

Shuttle Atlantis

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Merritt Island, Florida

The Atlantis is the only space shuttle displayed in spaceflight configuration. The ship is positioned parallel to the floor and rotated 40 degrees with the payload doors open and the Canadarm robotic arm deployed. The Atlantis went to space 33 times, performing resupply missions to space stations, launching satellites into orbit and conducting missions for the military, which remain classified. The Atlantis, named for an ocean-going research vessel, was the last shuttle to fly in space before the fleet was retired in 2011.

Shuttle Discovery. [Courtesy: Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum]

Shuttle Discovery

Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia

Discovery was the third shuttle to fly in space, making its first flight in 1984. It served as the “return-to-flight” orbiter after the destruction of the Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.

Discovery flew 39 missions, the most of all the shuttles, and among the most notable was the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope. In the 1985 documentary The Dream Is Alive, there are shots of Discovery on launch and landing. The orbiter was named for Henry Hudson’s Hudson Bay exploring vessel and that of British explorer Captain James Cook, the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, and New Zealand.

READ MORE: A Look Back at NASA’s Shuttle Program

Endeavour. [FLYING file photo]

Shuttle Endeavour

California Science Center, Los Angeles, California

The Endeavour literally stopped traffic as it was transported to the Southern California museum in 2012. Secured on the back of a specially modified Boeing 747, the orbiter flew down the coast of California and then was transported by ground to the museum—the ground portion of the trip took three days.

The Endeavour flew 25 missions, beginning in 1992 and ending in 2011.

But you will have to wait to see this one, as Endeavour is now off display (and will be for a few more years) as preparations are made to install it in the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which is under construction on the museum grounds. According to museum officials, the new facility will span several floors and allow the Endeavour to be displayed in launch configuration, mounted to real solid rocket boosters and ET-94, the last remaining flight-qualified external tank.

Shop in Space

Shuttle Enterprise

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York City

Enterprise was the first space shuttle design, but it was more of a proof-of-concept vehicle used for drop tests and glide tests. It did not have a heat shield or engines, so it could not go into space.

The shuttle, which was developed in the 1970s, was going to be called Constitution, after a famous seagoing vessel, but a massive letter-writing campaign from Star Trek fans persuaded then-President Gerald Ford to change the name to Enterprise after the starship commanded by Captain James T. Kirk in the science fiction series developed by Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry, it is said, selected the name for the starship in homage to the USS Enterprise (CV-6), the most decorated ship in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Today, the shuttle Enterprise resides aboard another ship: the USS Intrepid, which entered service in 1943, was decommissioned in 1974 and now is a museum.

Space Shuttle Ground Trainer

Museum of Flight, King County International Airport-Boeing Field (KBFI) Seattle

Although it never went to space, the full fuselage trainer (FFT) on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, helped prepare astronauts for missions. The ground trainer was dismantled and three large parts were loaded on a Super Guppy and flown to Seattle while other parts were trucked in.

READ MORE: Inside NASA’s Super Guppy

According to Ted Huetter, spokesman for the Museum of Flight, much of the ground trainer is made of plywood, but the interior includes parts that are made of the same material as the space-traveling shuttles.

The ground trainer is installed on the cradle just as it was at Johnson Space Center in Houston at the same height it would be on the landing gear. One of the exercises for the astronauts  in training was emergency egress from the cockpit via overhead windows and a rope while wearing their protective flight gear. The marks from this training are still visible on the outside of the shuttle. 

You can go into the cargo bay and look around, and you can’t go wrong with the shuttle-in-the-background selfie.

[Courtesy: Meg Godlewski]

Crew Compartment, Cockpit trainer

Lone Star Flight Museum, Houston

Some of the shuttle artifacts didn’t have too far to travel when they were decommissioned by NASA. The Lone Star Flight Museum in Houston is home to Crew Compartment Trainer-2 (CCT-2), which for 18 years was one of two shuttle nose-section trainers used at Johnson Space Center. The museum also has a Shuttle Mission Simulator-Motion Base, which is a one-of-a-kind flight deck that used to be hydraulically powered when it was training astronauts. Today, museum visitors can walk up to the flight deck and see what the crew sees. Note all the checklists on display. 

Fun facts:

Astronauts from 16 countries flew aboard the shuttles.

Depending on the mission, it could take several years to train a shuttle crew.

Between 1981 and 2011, a total of 135 missions were flown, all launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The shuttles made several trips to the International Space Station (ISS) and to Russian space station Mir nine times.

The post Museum Guide: Space Shuttles on Display appeared first on FLYING Magazine.

Read More