The George C Marshall Space Flight Center is NASA’s largest complex, where rocketry and propulsion are researched and developed.
Tours are available with proper ID as it is located on Redstone Arsenal. The tour departs from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Museum via a NASA bus.
The administration building is where Werner Von Braun and others made space travel possible.
Most manufacturing companies have displays of their products at their corporate headquarters and NASA is no different, only theirs are far more interesting than others.
A display of 3 of the engines greet visitors to the building.
While most people think ‘Houston’ when it comes to NASA Mission Control in reality there are three – Houston, Kennedy Space Center in Florida for ‘Launch Control’, and Huntsville for ‘Payload Control’.
Within this building are the staff that manages the day to day workings on the International Space Station.
The lobby of the building have models of the ISS and an astronaut at work.
A commonly used expression throughout NASA are ‘racks’. Each rack of equipment has specific roles, and teams of engineers are responsible for their rack.
The Payload Operations Center was amazingly small given the critical nature of their work. Just a handful of people are monitoring and managing the effort.
The structures that support the testing of rockets during development are known as ‘stands’. This is likely the most famous stand in the history of rocket development – The Redstone Interim Test Stand.
It was built in 1953 for just $25,000 out of materials scavenged from around the arsenal. They had to do it this way because the government wouldn’t give them any more money than that.
A total of 362 static rocket tests were completed here. Their budget was so low they took railroad tank cars that had been used to transport chemicals – cleaned them and buried them 300′ away from the test stand for their bunker to monitor the tests from.
Nearby you could see some of the much larger, much more expensive newer test stands.
One of the biggest challenges in long duration space flight is water. Because humans need water to survive, they had to come up with a way to conserve water in many ways one would not expect.
They have developed systems to recycle urine and washing water onboard that result in potable water.
The system is held in these three racks. The rotating distillation unit separate liquid from gases, then is sent to another unit for solid removals before the liquid go through a number of filtration’s that remove micro organisms.
They continue to research and develop even more efficient units, and the men’s room has a special urinal that they collect samples from for further testing – so I contributed to science.
As we rode around the complex we passed a number of interesting structures including this small, but very long wind tunnel.
Our final stop was the rocket park where they have examples of the various rockets used in space travel over the years.
While the museum portion was interesting, the additional tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center was by far the best part of the day.
The city of Huntsville, Alabama is located in the northern Alabama hills. For many years it was a cotton producing town like many others nearby. All that changed in the 1940s when the military started using a nearby arsenal for rocket development.
After the war many German engineers were relocated here and together with American engineers began developing rockets. The most famous of these engineers was Werner von Braun. This effort has lead to Huntsville’s nickname – The Rocket City.
Fortunately not all of the efforts in rocket development was for the military. This technology has allowed man to explore space.
As you approach the museum you can’t help but notice the massive Saturn V rocket.
Inside the museum there is a plethora of space related artifacts including Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s space suit.
The museum showcases the development of the equipment used in space flight including these early prototypes for gloves and boots.
One of the few items you can touch, a replica of the Apollo Lunar Rover is on display for inspection. The seats felt like cheap lawn chairs but served their purpose for the astronauts in their bulky space suits.
Apollo 13’s challenges have been made famous by Hollywood, but Huntsville has a couple of the components from the real space craft.
The museum has a couple of the early EVA (Extravehicular Activity) units.
Another large display has mock ups of the International Space Station.
When the space shuttle program was decommissioned there was a fierce competition amongst museums for the remaining shuttles. Huntsville did not get one of the four that actually flew in space, but they did get Pathfinder’.
This full scale simulator was built here in Huntsville and was used in the development of the facilities required for shuttle launches.
While the shuttle itself is a mock up, the fuel tanks and boosters are very much real.
A closer view of the Saturn V shows it’s massive size, with a height of 363′.
This mock up of the lunar lander on the moon’s surface is located outside near a couple of amusement rides. The rides are there to entertain the thousands of tweens and teens who come every year for Space Camp.
The outdoor exhibits are showing the wear of being in northern Alabama weather for the last 30-40 years.
The second major building on the campus is the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. It was designed to house a horizontal Saturn V rocket, as well as numerous other larger items, including other engines.
Skylab was the first space station used, having been launched in the 1970s. After just 6 years it was discontinued and eventually fell back to earth. While most of it was destroyed during re-entry, this large piece was recovered in the desert in Western Australia.
The Davidson Center has more examples of space suits.
Their prized possession is the Apollo 16 command module. This view shows the damage from re-entry that the space capsules incur.
The NASA program has had 3 major accidents with loss of life. The first of these was during the development of Apollo 1. A cabin fire during launch rehearsal killed the three astronauts, Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee.
A memorial and tribute is on display in the Davidson Center to the three.
Outside the Davidson Center are large concrete pieces that commemorate each of the Apollo flights.
In addition the wall that surrounds the courtyard have plaques describing each of the flights.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center has a great collection of space related items. While it is very busy with ‘Space Campers’, it is a must see for any space travel or history fan.
With family in town that has a strong interest in aviation, a day long visit to the Air Force Museum in Dayton was called for. For this visit I focused on the cool and quirky aircraft (and spacecraft).
We start with the horizontal stabilizer of Douglas VC-54C Skymaster with the name of ‘Sacred Cow’. It was the first presidential plane, serving FDR.
The Lockheed VC-140B JetStar was the first business jet produced in quantity for the civilian market.
Because of it’s smaller size it was sometimes referred to as Air Force One Half.
A view from the outside of the cockpit of the Independence.
Another look at the Sacred Cow. While it was state of the art, from this angle it looks like there were 100 pieces of aluminum cobbled together.
Not alien, just not useful.
Early Stealth – the Northrup Tacit Blue. While it was stealthy, it apparently was aerodynamically unstable.
Much of the day was spent checking out the quirky noses on many of the planes.
North American X-15A-2. One bad airplane – Built to fly high and fast it made 199 flights starting in 1959, and it speeds of 4520 MPH!
It was the world’s first piloted aircraft to reach hypersonic speeds, and allow the pilots to earn astronaut wings flying as high as 67 miles above the earth.
But then – they made spacecraft! A Gemini and Apollo.
Back to the quirky noses.
We always go through the museum ‘backwards’ – going straight to Hangar 4 for the Presidential aircraft and working our way to the front for the early flight.
The new downtown Cleveland Convention Center was the site of a Lego fan convention called BrickUniverse. This show featured a number of Lego artists, as well as vendors with a large collection of specialty pieces.
As we entered the hall we were greeted by Jonathan Lopes, who had a number of very large pieces. Jonathan, a San Diego resident who used to live in Brooklyn, which was featured extensively in his grouping.
Nearby was Lia Chan who specialized in Air & Space.
There were a number of ‘paintings’ made of Lego throughout the exhibit. The detail was amazing.
A 12′ long model of the USS Missouri had thousands of small sailors, as well as the table and dignitaries that signed the surrender terms ending World War II.
Displayed nearby was a large collection of famed military leaders.
Eventually I pulled out the zoom to get close ups.
The tallest building in Cleveland is the nearly 1000′ high Key Tower. For this show King Kong was on top.
The Eiffel Tower.
Another of Lia’s pieces up close showing the details.
The Moulin Rouge complete with Can Can Dancers.
Finally a close up of Jonathan’s Woolworth Building, showing the amazing detail on the cornices.