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EXPLORING SPACE - FOR ALL MANKIND-----------------------------------------This blog is to proliferate space travel and exploration to people the world over, in an attempt to inspire a sense of awe and wonder into mankind's greatest accomplishment - the exploration of the stars.---Former NASA History Facebook and Twitter content creator.----------------------Passionate about spaceflight since the age of two, I live and breath rockets, NASA, and anything space. I also enjoy Florida History and World's Fairs. I'm an avid explorer, and I'll occasionally post images from my travels.--------------21 - DC/VA/FL

Reblogged from aerospaceengineering  307 notes
generalelectric:

Happy National Aviation Day! The holiday, which falls on Orville Wright’s birthday, was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and has really taken off since. So today, celebrate all things flying and view more aviation posts here.   
GIF by Laurène Boglio. 

Happy National Aviation Day! While celebrating Orville Wright’s birthday, don’t forget to find some air museums near you to explore! You never know what you’ll find that can inspire you. Don’t know if there are any? This website has a pretty comprehensive listing of museums in the United States and Canada!While you’re here, check out a few of the ones I’ve written about, or check out a full list here.National Airline History Museum
Combat Air Museum
Strategic Air and Space Museum

generalelectric:

Happy National Aviation Day! The holiday, which falls on Orville Wright’s birthday, was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and has really taken off since. So today, celebrate all things flying and view more aviation posts here.   

GIF by Laurène Boglio

Happy National Aviation Day! While celebrating Orville Wright’s birthday, don’t forget to find some air museums near you to explore! You never know what you’ll find that can inspire you. Don’t know if there are any? This website has a pretty comprehensive listing of museums in the United States and Canada!

While you’re here, check out a few of the ones I’ve written about, or check out a full list here.

National Airline History Museum

Combat Air Museum

Strategic Air and Space Museum


In this early 1962 illustration, we see the Saturn C-5 rocket launching. Note the mobile launcher that transported the vehicle to the pad - it’s on rails. From early on in the design stage of Launch Complex 39, the Launch Operations Directorate grappled with the issue of where to locate Saturn pads. Real estate on Cape Canaveral was rapidly becoming cluttered with Titan, Polaris, Atlas, and other missile facilities.Three concepts were considered, dredging the Banana River, building offshore facilities, and the mobile launch platform. Previous launch operations consisted of erecting the vehicle at the pad, checking it out, and then launching. The mobile concept offered greater launch turn around times by reducing vehicle checkout, since it would be erected in an assembly facility separate from the pad, as well as greater flexibility for future launch operations. Once this launch plan was accepted, the question now arouse how to transport the rocket from its assembly building to the launch pad. Would rail be best, since the service structures at other launch pads moved on rails? Or would barge prove easier, with launcher and service tower floating down a canal and moored for launch?

In the images above, we see two concepts for the mobile launch plan at Complex 39, rail and barge.
Both plans faced problems that seemed to threaten the mobile concept - rail transport had never been proven for such a weight, and it was feared the wheels and rails would warp, and fluid dynamics suggested a barge/launcher concept would be unstable in high winds, and was generally more expensive.A chance meeting in late January, 1962 brought a third option to the attention of LOD officials - land transport via crawler. Representatives from the Bucyrus-Erie Company overheard NASA’s mobile transport problems and offered their crawler technology already used in their products. NASA officials, after consideration and study, accepted the design on 11 June, 1962, and the rest is history. 

In this early 1962 illustration, we see the Saturn C-5 rocket launching. Note the mobile launcher that transported the vehicle to the pad - it’s on rails. From early on in the design stage of Launch Complex 39, the Launch Operations Directorate grappled with the issue of where to locate Saturn pads. Real estate on Cape Canaveral was rapidly becoming cluttered with Titan, Polaris, Atlas, and other missile facilities.

Three concepts were considered, dredging the Banana River, building offshore facilities, and the mobile launch platform. Previous launch operations consisted of erecting the vehicle at the pad, checking it out, and then launching. The mobile concept offered greater launch turn around times by reducing vehicle checkout, since it would be erected in an assembly facility separate from the pad, as well as greater flexibility for future launch operations. 

Once this launch plan was accepted, the question now arouse how to transport the rocket from its assembly building to the launch pad. Would rail be best, since the service structures at other launch pads moved on rails? Or would barge prove easier, with launcher and service tower floating down a canal and moored for launch?

In the images above, we see two concepts for the mobile launch plan at Complex 39, rail and barge.

Both plans faced problems that seemed to threaten the mobile concept - rail transport had never been proven for such a weight, and it was feared the wheels and rails would warp, and fluid dynamics suggested a barge/launcher concept would be unstable in high winds, and was generally more expensive.

A chance meeting in late January, 1962 brought a third option to the attention of LOD officials - land transport via crawler. Representatives from the Bucyrus-Erie Company overheard NASA’s mobile transport problems and offered their crawler technology already used in their products. NASA officials, after consideration and study, accepted the design on 11 June, 1962, and the rest is history. 

Alright….I couldn’t resist posting another photoset of the TWA Moonliner. I couldn’t have asked for a better day to visit TWA’s former Headquarters in Kansas City. The blue summer sky and wispy white clouds provided a brilliant backdrop for the building’s red, chrome and glass facade. 

The Moonliner itself was illuminated in by the sun, giving an excellent opportunity for some beautiful photos. 

The rocket on the building is actually a replica, with the original vehicle that formerly stood in the same position on display at a museum nearby. If you’re in Kansas City, the building is located on the corner of 18th and Baltimore.

One of the most famous airlines of the twentieth century, Trans-World Airlines was known for its pioneering efforts in air travel. The airline was the first company to employ the use of pressurized cabins in their commercial service, and challenged rival Pan-Am in transatlantic flights after the second World War. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, TWA has numerous legacies in the region including a replica of it’s Moonliner on the roof of it’s former office building, the TWA museum, and the National Airline History Museum.

The National Airline History museum was originally started in 1986 as the Save-A-Connie foundation, an effort to purchase and restore a retired Lockheed “Super G” Constellation aircraft to its TWA livery. The centerpiece of the museum is the Constellation, however, they also boast a Martin 404 Skyliner, DC-3 (currently under restoration) and the original Moonliner rocket that was perched on the roof of the company’s headquarters. A Lockheed L-1011 Tristar is located outside, and is also undergoing extensive restoration.

Seeing the Moonliner in person was a remarkable experience. Although it was not the one formerly on display at Disneyland (which was three times larger), coming face-to-face with a relic of the space age reminded me of just how differently people viewed spaceflight then. While not a “space artifact” in the sense of a space capsule or rocket, the Moonliner was just a product of the space age as its flight worthy relatives.

This was also the first time I had seen a Constellation aircraft in person. Not being much of an airplane guy, I knew little about its history or design. It’s slightly-angled fuselage intrigued me, as did the overall profile of the vehicle. Of the three restored commercial Constellation aircraft in the world capable of flight,  this is the only one in the United States. An engine blowout a few years ago caused the vehicle to be temporarily relegated to its hangar, but the museum hopes to raise enough money to replace it so that the Connie can once again go to air shows. (Later in my trip, I would see a second semi-restored constellation, this time an Air Force early warning aircraft at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka.)

The museum is located at a hanger on the western portion of the Charles Wheeler downtown Airport, just across the Missouri rover from downtown Kansas City. If you decide to visit, be sure you go Wednesday-Saturday, though, or else you’ll end up walking six miles to the museum to find its doors locked, as I did the first time I attempted to visit. Wouldn’t be a vacation without a little laugh, right?

The Combat Air Museum, in Topeka, houses an impressive collection of aircraft used by the United States Armed Services. One of them is of a modified 1048B Constellation. The U.S. Air Force used this specific plane, designated EC-121T Warning Star, as part of its early warning network over Asia. It was in service for 22 years before being flown to the Combat Air Museum in 1981. More information here.

I’ll admit, I’m not much of an airplane guy. I’ve tended to fancy spacecraft and spaceflight more than I have aviation and different types of airplanes, although I’ve always enjoyed going to air museums. However, the three I visited during my time in the Heartland last week gave me new insight on an area that I have previously not studied very much. 

One of these was the Combat Air Museum, in Topeka, Kansas. Located on Forbes Field, it is one of only a handful of aviation museums in the United States located on an active airfield. The museum’s collection housed aircraft that were used by the United State Armed Services over the past 80 or so years.

I was particularly impressed by three items in the collection, the EC-121T Constellation, F9F-5 Panther, and Sikorsky CH-54A Skycrane helicopter. This was the second Constellation aircraft I had seen this week, and it only furthered my admiration for the aircraft’s design and form. It’s slightly curved forward fuselage gleamed in the morning sun against the museum’s hangars. The Panther’s design was unlike any I had seen for a fighter jet before, and it intrigued me. The Sikorsky Skycrane I had seen many images and videos of, but had never seen in person. 

The rest of the aircraft on display were no less impressive; the main display hangar was filled with dozens of historic aircraft and engines. For a list of all the aircraft on display, check out this link at the museum’s website.

The images above show a portion of the aircraft on display, including the F-84F Thunderstreak, MiG-15, TA-4J Skyhawk, F9F-5 Panther, and EC-121T Constellation. Visitors could enter the Connie, which was used for early warning flights over Southeast Asia.

While still passionate about spaceflight, I’ve begun to study the various types of military aircraft and their histories. It’s refreshing to learn new material, and it compliments the vast amounts I learned at the museum. If you’re in the Kansas City/Northeast Kansas or Topeka area, I recommend visiting the museum. It’s an hour and 15 minutes from Kansas City, and just a few short minutes south of downtown Topeka.

More Soviet artifacts at the Kansas Cosmosphere. The museum houses the largest collection of Soviet space artifacts anywhere in the world outside Russia. Kruschev’s desktop model of Sputnik was on display, as was a creepy bust of Yuri Gagarin.

In addition to the backup vehicles for Sputniks I and II, an engine from the R7 missile family was exhibited. The R7 was the parent vehicle for the Soyuz launcher which is still in operation today.


Of the five propaganda medallion spheres launched on some of the early Luna missions, only two are known to remain on the Earth. Both are located in Kansas; one at the Cosmosphere and one at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

Tomorrow, the long-anticipated return of the ISEE-3 space probe will fly by the Earth. After 36 years, the International Sun/Earth Explorer will once again benefit mankind, this time, a satellite for all!

Earlier this year, it was discovered that the spacecraft could be reactivated, continuing scientific monitoring of the solar wind and environment. A team of civilian scientists created a kickstarter campaign to operate the spacecraft, with the intention to make its data available for public use. 

Yesterday, two days before the Earth flyby, the ISEE-3 Reboot team created a beautiful interactive website explaining their project and the spacecraft’s history. In addition, spacecraft statistics such as speed, rotation, and temperature are displayed; once the probe begins to collect more solar data, it will be available for download on the website.

It’s a beautiful website, full of information and simulations. Tomorrow, a Google+ hangout with the reboot team will lead us into live coverage of the probe’s swing through Earth’s neighborhood. In case you didn’t see the link above, the website can also be accessed here.

More scenes from the Kansas Cosmosphere, including the warhead of a Redstone IRBM, slide rules used by the Soviet and American chief rocket designers, Explorer 1 backup modified for the Beacon program, and pretty stained glass at the museum’s entrance. The Bell X-1 “Glamorous Glennis” at the museum is a full-scale model that was built for the movie “The Right Stuff” and subsequently put on display. Her four engines, arraigned in a diamond, were nearby.

The slide rules really got my attention; two more or less identical pieces of wood, rooted in universally understood mathematical principles, with virtually no discernible physical difference were used by two opposing nations and people on opposite ends of the globe to achieve the same goal. The only difference in appearance I saw was a slight Easternization of the arabic numerals (a 5 with its top stroke slightly curved, a 4 with a curved side, etc) and that was it. One used by Sergei Korolev, the other by Werner von Braun. Both used to chance the course of history.

In addition to the main F-1 and J-2 engines on a Saturn V launch vehicle, two other smaller engines located on the third stage provided key amounts of thrust. The Auxiliary Propulsion System consisted of two pods placed on opposite sides of the S-IVB stage. In fact, without them, a lunar mission would not have been possible. The engines were so vital that each one was quad redundant, meaning there were three other backups in the event one failed.

While visiting the Kansas Cosmosphere last which (which I covered in this post), one of the spare APU’s were on display. It was rather large, and it amused me that this was the ‘smallest’ of all the engines located on the launch vehicle.

It provided two main functions on the vehicle, both of which are vital for a successful launch. First, it acted as a ullage motor, pushing the propellants towards the back of the fuel tank during staging so that the engines could successfully ignite. Second, it provided attitude control in Earth orbit to properly orient the spacecraft in preparation for Trans-Lunar Injection.

When the spent S-IVB stages reached Lunar orbit, the motors were reignited one last time to propel the stage towards impact on the lunar surface.

Nearby, the topmost part of the moon rocket was on display. Known as the Q-ball, the sensor suite was located at the very top of the launch escape system, and was the very top of the rocket. Eight holes in the Q-ball measured air pressure and velocity during ascent; if any of them deviated from precalcuated figures, commands could be sent to move the five massive engines 363 feet below by as much as 1/8 of an inch!

For more information on the APS, click here.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, located in Hutchinson, Kansas. Being so far away from Florida, I never really expected to visit the museum anytime relatively soon. However, when I realized I was spending ten days in Kansas City (only three and a quarter hours away), I thought I might finally be able to visit this remarkable center.

The Cosmosphere is the only Smithsonian Affiliate museum in Kansas, and is the only facility approved by the government to restore and preserve flown spacecraft. Their preservation department is currently restoring the five Apollo 11 F-1 engines that Jeff Bezos recovered in 2012. It houses the largest collection of Soviet spacecraft outside Russia, and the second-largest collection of American space artifacts outside the Smithsonian Institution.

Entering the museum, you’re nose-to-nose with the SR-71 blackbird. Serial number 17961, the aircraft flew until 1977 when it was then used for spare parts. A full-scale model of the side of the space shuttle runs along the length of the building, and the ticket counter is located under the wing. 

The museum portion of the facility is located underground for both climate control and protection. The galleries are chronological starting from World War II and the V2 production facilities. The Cold War gallery featured a Redstone IRBM warhead and backup Sputnik I and II vehicles. 

The centerpiece of the museum was the Early Spaceflight gallery. It featured the only Vostok Capsule on display in the West, which was part of a biological satellite in the 1980’s. Nearby, a Voskhod II engineering model towered over visitors. 

Voskhod II was the spacecraft that the first spacewalk was performed on. The backup Volga airlock Cosmonaut Alexi Leonov used was attached to the display spacecraft. Of everything I saw in the museum, this was perhaps the most fascinating to me. While I am quite familiar with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules, and have seen many versions of each in various locations, I had never seen any Soviet spacecraft in person before. I think I spent more time studying the form and design of the Voskhod than in any other part of the Cosmosphere.

The American half of the gallery featured Gemini 10 and an Agena docking target. Normally, Liberty Bell 7 would be located here, however, about a month prior to my visit, the spacecraft was removed for transport to Bonn, Germany, where it will be on display until April 2015. While slightly disappointed I did not see it, I recall it being on tour in the early 2000’s at Kennedy Space Center as part of its restoration tour. Even when Liberty Bell is not at the Cosmosphere, the facility has the distinction of being only one of three museums worldwide that houses flown spacecraft from all three manned American space programs during the 1960’s. Remnants of the unmanned Mercury Atlas-1 capsule, which experienced its booster exploding during launch, are housed in the museum as well. Although it didn’t fly in space, it is still considered a flown artifact.

The other cornerstone of the museum was located in the Apollo gallery - the Odyssey. The Apollo 13 command module was one of the most neglected command modules of the program after its return to Earth. An extensive multi-year renovation in the mid 1990’s saw over 22,000 pieces of the spacecraft recovered from around the world to restore it to its former glory. Of particular interest to me was the reattachment of the docking tunnel. On other Apollo command modules, the hardware was jettisoned before its reentry through the atmosphere. Odyssey’s hardware met the same fate, but the display capsule featured a backup. Various components of the Saturn V were also on display, but I will write about that in a later post.

Nearby, a full-scale Lunar Module that was used in NBC’s lunar landing broadcast was set up to simulate the Apollo 15 mission, complete with Lunar Rover model. Across the hall is one of the few moonrocks retried from the Apollo 11 mission on display. Most lunar samples on public view are from later missions.

The entire facility was absolutely stunning. Their collection was spectacular, comprehensive, and displayed in a way to inspire even those avid of space buffs. Roughly 7% of the entire Cosmosphere’s collection is on view, so items are frequently on global tour or loaned elsewhere. Even in my description of the exhibits I left out a majority of displays and images, though I’ll write more posts and images later. In my opinion, it was on par with that of the Smithsonian.


For 46 years, the United States’ primary offensive for nuclear war was the Strategic Air Command. Seemingly converse to their “Peace is our profession” slogan, SAC managed all the land-based bombers and missiles that the US operated during the entire cold war. 

Commanded from Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, SAC operated some of the most famous military airplanes in the world, such as the B-52 bomber, U2 spy plane, and SR-71 blackbird.

Those planes and more are on public display at the Strategic Air and Space Museum near Ashland, just a few miles from Offutt. Originally located on-base, the museum moved 15 miles west in 1998 to become more accessible to the public. It also boasts the largest collection of strategic and reconnaissance aircraft in the world.

I visited the museum on August 5, 2014 while vacationing in Kansas City. The facility was well worth the three and a half drive. From a few miles away, the museum’s glass facade and missiles poke above the Nebraskan farmland. Outside, you’re greeted by an Atlas A ICBM model, Thor IRBM, Blue Scout, and Snark missile.

Inside, you’re immediately face-to-face with an SR-71 blackbird. Two large hangers house the collection.  Notable aircraft include the B-36 (whose size astounded me, compounded by the fact that it’s propeller powered!), U2-C spy plane, two MiGs, and the only restored T-29 in the world.

I must admit, I’m far more a space junkie than I am aviation or military history, but the SAC museum taught me a considerable amount. I’ve never seen a B-52 bomber in person before, and it was an odd feeling seeing such a famous aircraft up close. The longest-serving aircraft in the U.S. Air force, it’s first flight operational flight was in 1955, and it’s not scheduled to be retired until 2050 - an astonishing 95 year lifespan!

While I’m familiar with the B-52’s NASA history, its role in atomic bomb development struck me as more profound. Ironically, I visited the museum the day before the 69th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. While none of the planes here dropped Fat Man or Little Boy on Japan, I couldn’t help but think that all the vehicles I saw in the museum could have unleashed that same devastation - and then some - at any given moment around the world. In fact, I was standing in a museum dedicated solely to the vehicles that could have made nuclear war a reality. But, as much of a reality as they would have made it, so, too, were they instrumental in preventing it.

Additionally, a small collection of space artifacts were also present, but that’s something I’ll cover in a later post.

If you’re within a few hours of Omaha, Nebraska, I recommend taking some time to see this museum. For the importance of the Strategic Air Command in our nation’s history, it’s nice to see such a nice museum.