Posts Tagged ‘space shuttle’

$15 Million NASA Artifact to Arrive in Columbus Friday

July 17, 2012


A part of space exploration history is about to make Columbus, Georgia its home. The Space Shuttle’s main engine nozzle arrives here Friday in preparation of being placed on permanent display downtown at Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

To celebrate the arrival of the $15 million artifact, two free public ceremonies will take place as the nozzle travels by trailer Friday morning from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in HuntsvilleAla., to Columbus. You can check out the nozzle at the following locations:

            Phenix City Intermediate School, 2401 South Railroad Street, Phenix City, AL

            6:30 p.m. – Nozzle arrival, ceremony, and photo opportunities

            Coca-Cola Space Science Center, 701 Front Avenue, Columbus, GA 31901
            7:00 p.m. – Outdoor entertainment & refreshments
            7:45 p.m. – Nozzle arrival, ceremony, & photo opportunities

That the nozzle – designated as an artifact for CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center – reaches Columbus on July 20 is not by accident. It was scheduled that day to coincide with the 43rd anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon. 

“Just as Apollo 11 marked the beginning of a new era of exploration, Friday’s NASA artifact transfer marks an important paradigm shift for the Space Science Center,” said Mary Johnson, assistant director of the center. “With the arrival of these historical additions to the center, the center’s tourism value, the impact within the Columbus community, throughout the region and state, will be significantly enhanced, as will the center’s ability to continue to provide innovative and unique opportunities for inquiry-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.”

The artifact to be on display has flown to space nine times and on all four of the shuttles in service during its lifetime – Atlantis (3), Discovery (2), Endeavour (1) and Columbia (3). It was involved in 39 total engine starts – 24 for development and testing, three for engine certification, and 12 actual launch-pad firings, including a flight readiness firing before Endeavour’s maiden voyage and two launch-pad aborts.  The overall engine burn time on this nozzle is more than five hours and 16 minutes, a “truly phenomenal statistic considering it only takes the shuttle about 8 minutes to get to space,” said Shawn Cruzen, director of theCoca-Cola Space Science Center and a CSU professor of astronomy.

The nozzle is the largest of CSU’s Space Science Center’s nearly $20 million in artifacts.

So Long to Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Luke Skywalker

July 17, 2011

STS-135 Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus, in zero gravity,enjoys the panoramic views provided by the multi-windowed Cupola aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

The final shuttle launch got a lot of coverage, but then it stopped. To find out  about  what’s going on aboard the International Space Station, I’ve called up NASA on the internet. The transferring of supplies that Atlantis brought up on its final flight is over, and the transfer of items from the space station to the shuttle is almost over, and Atlantis will be heading back with that in a couple of days.  I must admit that the news is not very exciting. And, frankly, I hope it doesn’t get exciting because that would mean the shuttle would be in trouble.  No doubt when it touches down, that will be covered because that will signal the end of the program, and perhaps the Space Age. .

And, really, it’s time for the shuttle program to end.  The shuttles never really lived up to their early advertising. As the Economist says, “The shuttle was supposed to have been a truck that would make the business of putting people into orbit quotidian. Instead it has been nothing but trouble. Twice it’s killed its crew.” It has also been extremely expensive.

The magazine says the Space Age is over. That inner space, though, is useful with its satellites that provide weather information, telecommunications, and incredible cameras that have revolutionized a lot of things, including warfare. “No power can mobilize its armed forces in secret. The exact location of every building on the planet is known.”

The reason for the race to the moon has gone. What sent us there was to beat the Soviet Union there because of military considerations. The states of the world are not vying for military advantage in space any more. They are cooperating with one another to explore space. Just take the space station as an example.  No one country owns it and a lot are contributing to its cost, $100 billion.  But is it worth it? It must  not be  because it scheduled to be “de-orbited” in 2020. And you really don’t find many people raising hell about that.  A lot think the money can be better spent on project to help people on Earth.

That doesn’t mean robots will stop exploring planets and asteroids. They will probably as long as governments are willing to pay for it. And private companies are working on providing commercial inner space rides, but only the very rich will be able to afford them.  Is the end of the Space Age a bad thing? Probably, if the scientific search for astronomical knowledge is abandoned. That’s probably unlikely because we are creatures of curiosity and some of us never stop asking what’s it all about and will continue to try to find out.

Meanwhile, NASA is saying the Space Age is not  over.  It still  plans to send humans into deep space, meybe not the moon, because there is no need to do that again.  You can check out what NASA plans by clicking on this link.

Space Shot Finals

July 10, 2011

Atlantis lifting off on final mission as seen from a NASA training plane

As Atlantis does the last Space Shuttle work delivering supplies to the International Space Station, I reflect on another last NASA final flight, the one that took place on December 7, 1972, when Apollo 17 made America’s final trip to the moon and back. That one was a big deal anyway, but for me, an even bigger deal, because I was on Cape Kennedy filming it, and snapping a few slides of my own. Good thing I did, because I have the slides, but who knows what happened to the WRBL-TV film.  The TV footage turned out better than my inexpensive automatic-exposure camera, mainly because NASA told all professional photographers on the scene exactly what F stop to use with a 16mm film camera.

Here’s the way my cheap camera shot turned out. I had the 16mm movie camera running in one hand, while I rapidly snapped stills with the other hand.

NASA had a little bit better luck. Here is the official  photo.

I can thank then Ledger-Enquirer Chief Photographer Lawrence Smith for my being there.  He called and said a buddy of his was flying down in his small Cessna and had a spare seat and I could have it. Naturally, I jumped at  the offer.  The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer owned 51 percent of WRBL-TV and Radio at the time, so Lawrence could invite me without catching any flack from the paper’s management.

The flight down was a thriller. It was storming that day. But, the storms were scattered, so we took off.  It took us a little longer to get there because we had to fly around the storms, and when we got to Orlando where we were going to land and rent a car, it was socked in, and we couldn’t land. The pilot – I wish I could remember his name – decided to try for a small strip near  the Cape.  It was just one runway, but long enough for the big private jets that carried the big shots and celebrities to the Cape, and certainly long enough for the puddle-jumper we were in.  When we got there and looked down, there was a cloud, but it sat right next to the runway, not over it. We must have been living right.

By launch time that night, the weather cleared, and we got to experience that spectacular lift-off.  When that last Saturn 5 rocket was lit, it lit up the Cape.  And, it was one of those “you had to be there” moments. You could see it at home on a TV screen, but you did indeed have to be there to hear the roar and feel the vibrations of that Saturn loaded with enough  fuel to power the moon orbiter and lander out of Earth’s gravitational field and hurtle it to the Moon.

Now, we watch hopefully that there will be no tragedy to report as the very dangerous mission is being performed by the crew of Atlantis.    Getting to the space station and back home is dangerous.  Docking with the space station is dangerous. The shuttle itself is dangerous. For those wishing the shuttle program to continue, perhaps they need to understand that  the imperative for launching space shots has changed. It’s a new ball game. More on that next. Stay tuned.


Moon Orbiting Astronaut Al Worden Pans the Space Shuttle Program

January 28, 2011

1971 NASA photo of astronaut Al Worden Speaking in the Omnisphere Theater at the Coca-Coal Space Science Center,  the man who orbited the moon in 1971, didn’t have much positive to say about the U.S. Space Shuttle.  “It’s a dangerous vehicle,” he told the audience on the eve of the anniversary of the 1986 Challenger disaster that took the lives of 7 United States astronauts. 

He did say, however, that if the shuttle had been successful in its original mission it would have been good.  The original mission was to provide a low-cost shuttle back and forth to the International Space Station, but the cost skyrocketed, and if the Apollo program had been continued it would have cost a lot less.

After his talk, I asked him if there was anything positive about the Shuttle. He said there were some things. For one, it put the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.

“Should we put a man on the moon again?”

“I don’t care,” was his response.

“In other words, we shouldn’t.”

“No. The moon is nothing.”

He added that he thought we should go beyond the moon. 

A lady interjected, “Wouldn’t the moon be a good platform to launch further space exploration?”

He didn’t think it was necessary.  

He does support NASA and  the continuing exploration of outer space.   He was invited by the Coca-Cola Space and Science Center to participate in commemorating and honoring the legacy of bravery and dedication to space exploration by the crew of the Challenger Shuttle that blew up in January of 1986.

I have to admit it was somewhat special to meet and chat with a man who had orbited the moon.  He was friendly and willing to answer any questions about his experiences. He was the Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot. As David Scott and Jim Irwin explored the surface of the moon, Col. (ret.) Worden orbited the moon alone for three days in the command ship “Endeavour.”  On the trip back to earth, Worden took the furthest deep space walk, moving along the outside of “Endeavour” to retrieve film from two moon-mapping cameras.

He said the most exciting moment about the trip to the moon was when the Endeavour rotated around and he saw the moon looming large.  “We hadn’t seen the moon for 20 hours,” he said, pointing out that they were flying backwards to the moon so they didn’t see it until they were almost there. 

He had high praise for the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, praise that I echo.  It is truly a great place to learn about astronomy and space travel.  If you are really into those things, you might want to do what I just did and become a member of the Center.  The Center’s Executive Director Shawm Cruzen puts it this way:  “You can join in on the mission. Support the future of science education. Help inspire the next generation of space explorers. Become a member of CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center.”


The End of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program Has one Plus for Columbus

February 8, 2010

Endeavour lifts off at Kennedy Space Flight Center, last night launch, 2/8/2010 (Photo courtesy: NASA/Jim Grossmann)

The ending of NASA’s space shuttle program this year is going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of people.  However, something good will come of it for our area. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center will be given $17 million worth of shuttle artifacts.

Yes, one of Columbus’ great tourist attractions will be even more attractive.  Everything about the space shuttle in the Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a replica. 

Space capsule replica, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia

 The  space capsule, the space shuttle, the  NASA control room are all replicas.  Even so, it is a very entertaining and educational place to visit.  However, with the announcement that the Omisphere Director Lance Tankersley’s application to NASA for actual shuttle launch artifacts was granted,  the Center will able to offer the real thing for some shuttle launch  hardware.

NASA has agreed to give $17 million worth of artifacts to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.  That doesn’t mean the Center won’t have to pay anything.  It is going to have to ante up the money  to go pick  up the artifacts, which will entail trips to Cape Canaveral, Florida; Houston, Texas; and California where the  artifacts are located.

Some of the  artifacts are so  large that  they will require large semi’s to pick  up. For instance, the leading edge of a shuttle wing is 49-feet long. A piece of engine nozzle weighs 4300 pounds.  Also among the artifacts will be an on-board computer, a launch-pad escape basket, a launch control room biomedical console, a shuttle tire, a tool box and a shuttle window.

Since there is not enough  room in the Space Center to display all of these items,  the facility will have to decide how to do it. It probably will  require new construction.  Fortunately, they have until 2011 to work it out. The  artifacts won’t be available until then.

NASA guests watch Endeavour's launch at the Kennedy Space Center (Photo courtesy; NASA- Paul E. Alers)

After September, there will be no more American shuttle trips into orbits to do things like repairing a Hubble Space telescope or go to the International Space Station.  To get to the space station we’ll have to hitch a ride with the Russians since they will still be sending Soyuz shuttles up.  What if relations between the countries sour?  What will we do then?  Who knows, maybe China or Japan will have shuttles operating by then. 

What does the future hold for America’s space program?  Privatization is the buzz word.  It’s already started as NASA has contracted with private firms for some space hardware.  The next step is for private firms to build the rockets and future shuttles that will ride them.  The whole thing is up in the air (no pun intended) because Congress has dramatically cut funding for the space program, and future cuts could be coming. 

Meanwhile, the end of the shuttle program has economic fallout that affects non-governmental elements. For instance, there will be devastation of communities around the Kennedy Space Station on Cape Canaveral that depend on the tourism that space launches provide.  They are going to lose millions when people stop coming because there will be no more shuttle launches. 

We were going to go back to the moon.  That idea has been scrapped.  It’s incredably expensive, especially now during the current budget crisis. Besides, we’ve already done it.  What would be the benefit? I guess no one has answered those questions to Congress’ satisfaction. 

Space Shuttle Endeavour's Crew: From left are Robert Behnken, Commander George Zamka, pilot Terry Virts, Kathryn Hire, Nicholas Patrick and Stephen Robinson. NASA says, "The primary payload on STS-130 is the International Space Station's Node 3, Tranquility, a pressurized module that will provide room for many of the station's life support systems." (Photo courtesy: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

On the Way to “On the Shoulders of Giants”

November 11, 2008

  Every Thursday when I would arrive at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, yellow school busses would lined up on Front Avenue, and, inside, school children would be everywhere. They were obviously having a ball as they were exposed to space science. 

Jet FLight Simulator Line, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus, GA

Jet FLight Simulator Line, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus, GA

  While operating for people of all ages -the CALL class “On the Shoulders of Giants,” about the great astronomers, that I just finished is an example of the center’s service to senior citizens –  the main target, says Assistant Director Larry Pallotta,  is the 5th grader. 

 Pallotta told me that kids also come from afar to participate in this program. Every year groups bus down from the Atlanta and Columbia, South Carolina areas and other out-town places.

 Kids like to do, not just sit and listen, and the center is a hands-on place where kids (of all ages) fly fighter jets in simulators …

Jet Flight Simulator, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus, GA

Jet Flight Simulator, Coca-Cola Space Science Center, Columbus, GA

  Operate Mars rover minatures by remote control ..

Mars Exploration Rover, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

Mars Exploration Rover, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

   Land a space shuttle …

Space Shuttle landing game, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

Space Shuttle landing game, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

  Touch a screen to see the planets of our solar system …

Planet Identifier, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

Planet Identifier, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

  This experience is one of the new ones. 

  Add these to the Omnisphere Theater, a state of the art planetarium that features a number of different shows for different age levels, and the Challenger Space Center, where students get to experience what a ride is space is like,  the Meade observatory with a 16″ LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain  telescope, and numerous outside other programs, and you have a creative, active educational and entertaining center for learning about space science. If you haven’t been lately, go … and if you want to enjoy it to the max, take a kid with you.