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Spacecraft Replicas
JRehling
post Oct 11 2017, 05:35 PM
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I just wanted to share a moment from last month that is on topic for this board, though quite different from the usual discussion.

At the NASA Ames Visitor Center, there is a non-flown replica of the Pioneer Venus Orbiter. I've seen many test/training/duplicate spacecraft in the past, but it was a fresh and powerful experience to walk around this, possibly because it was at eye/body level instead of suspended in the rafters. I was immediately struck by the size of the thing – much bigger than I intuitively would have guessed – and how comparatively minor and hidden the instruments and their portals were. Just to throw out numbers to describe this, the spacecraft bus was a cylinder 2.5 m in diameter and the instruments weighed 45 kg out of a 517 kg dry mass for the spacecraft.

But the real point of this post is to relate the power of being next to the replica rather than reading numbers or looking at a small image on a computer monitor, what the philosopher Heidegger called Dasein, or "being there." I'm sure with other spacecraft, the reaction would be a bit of surprise at how small it is, or how prominent the instruments, or how powerfully built or how spindly. But when you spend hours per month (per day?) thinking about spacecraft, it can be quite an eye-opener to see one, and particularly when one is quite close to the thing, an experience I don't recall from, say, the National Air and Space Museum where, in my memory, many of them are presented, but farther away.

Another quite marvelous experience I had, when I worked at NASA Ames, was taking my copy of "The Right Stuff" and perching by a training model Mercury capsule and reading the passages about the flight of Shephard (or Glenn?) and finding the instruments, levers, buttons, and knobs described in the text in the real spacecraft (a plate of plexiglass allowed one to see, but not touch, them). It was the ultimate visual aid for the text, one that I was lucky to have closely accessible.

This is a suggestion that everyone interested in them should take an opportunity when convenient to see them. And if anyone ever has the opportunity to present one to visitors, I have to remark again how much better the experience of seeing one quite closely – within a meter, and at eye level – rather than hung up in the rafters. Part of this business is to capture the imagination of the public, and it's not just the planets and their moons that are marvelous, but also the craft that go there to explore them for us.

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djellison
post Oct 11 2017, 07:57 PM
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In a similar vein - Marie Curie - the flight spare of Sojourner ( and at one point scheduled to fly onboard the '01 Surveyor Lander ) is in the Air and Space Museum in DC.


I got chills just looking at it.

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nprev
post Oct 13 2017, 04:14 AM
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There's what I think is a Viking Lander engineering testbed on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles; there's another in the lobby of the National Air & Space Museum in DC. It is indeed an awe-inspiring experience to be eye-level close to these stunning artifacts; makes them seem much more real & tangible somehow.

That said, the full-scale Cassini mockup at CSC hanging close overhead as well as the Galileo model mounted the same way at the Von Karman center are equally striking. The sheer scale of these vehicles has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated.


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A few will take this knowledge and use this power of a dream realized as a force for change, an impetus for further discovery to make less ancient dreams real.
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elakdawalla
post Oct 13 2017, 05:59 PM
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My favorite "feeling of being there" was when I viewed the Stardust sample return capsule at National Air and Space. Think about it -- that's the piece of hardware that's been the farthest away from Earth and returned to us.

I second Nick's esteem for the full scale Galileo model. The Cassini one at CSC is hung high so it's hard to approach and appreciate it in the same way. Of course there's also the full scale Voyager at Von Karman -- it feels to me like a statue of Athena in a Greek temple.


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Tom Dahl
post Oct 14 2017, 01:07 PM
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I too love seeing and examining full-scale spacecraft. Here are some of my space-related photo albums. Most of the images have descriptions; to see them, click on an image (within an album) and then click on the little "(i)" icon in the upper right corner to display information in a right-hand panel. From any of those full-window image views you can use left and right arrows to navigate between adjacent images, and zoom in to see the full-resolution (uses scroll-wheel mouse or similar).

Most of the spacecraft at the California Science Center including Cassini, for which there are a few dozen photographs (in the top quarter of the album).
Space Shuttle Orbiter Endeavour at the California Science Center.
Spacecraft, rocket engines, etc. at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo.
S-3D rocket engine from the Jupiter missile and Juno II booster programs, at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center large collection of spacecraft, including Shuttle orbiter Atlantis.
Lunar Module LM-2 being renovated at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to look like LM-5 (Apollo 11), and pre-renovation.
Mars Polar Lander mockup at the Pima Air & Space Museum.
Phoenix Mars Lander mockup at the Pima Air & Space Museum.

I'm especially interested in the Viking '75 Mars project, and have been fortunate enough to conduct detailed measurements and photography of many of the lander test units and some hardware components, as well as of the Flight Capsule 3 backup lander unit (loaned by the Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project to The Museum of Flight). Here are those albums:

Flight Capsule 3 in Seattle Museum of Flight (756 photos)
Dimensioned diagrams of the FC3 lander

Proof Test Capsule (PTC) Lander at Smithsonian NASM (466 photos)
PTC Lander at Smithsonian NASM 2016 during conservation (888 photos)

Lander at Virginia Air and Space Center (VASC) (622 photos)
Dimensioned diagrams of the VASC’s lander

Lander at California Science Center (CSC) (456 photos)
Dimensioned diagrams of the CSC's lander

Collector Head Shroud Unit at NASA Langley Research Center (99 photos)
Biology instrument at Cleveland Museum of Natural History (36 photos)
Meteorology Sensor Assembly (60 photos)
Meteorology Electronics Assembly (22 photos)
Tape Recorder (53 photos)
High Gain Antenna photos and measurements (264 images)
XRFS Instrument (42 images)
Terminal Descent Engine components (78 images)
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