Science and Technology News

Sunday, March 11, 2012

National Museum USAF to eceive Retired NASA Space Shuttle Crew Compartment Trainer


By Rob Bardua

A retired NASA space shuttle crew compartment trainer is expected to arrive this summer at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The CCT is a high-fidelity representation of the Space Shuttle Orbiter crew station that was used primarily for on-orbit crew training and engineering evaluations.

It was in this trainer that astronauts learned how to operate many of the orbiter sub-systems in more than 20 different classes. All Air Force astronauts in NASA’s shuttle program trained in the CCT.

The crew module of the CCT consists of a flight deck and a mid-deck, and contains components such as panels, seats and lights visible to or used by the flight crew. Non-functional switches, connections, guards and protective devices all have the same physical characteristics, operating force, torque and movement as a real space shuttle.

The museum is currently working with NASA to package the CCT for airlift to the museum via NASA’s “Super Guppy” aircraft, which routinely carries outsized loads such as missile and rocket components. After arrival, technicians will offload the CCT and place it on interim display in the Cold War Gallery, before later moving it to a new Space Gallery in the planned fourth building.

According to the director of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, retired Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, the CCT will be a great addition to the museum.

“When the CCT exhibit is completed, it will allow the public to have an up-close and personal look into the cockpit and mid-deck areas of a shuttle and learn how astronauts trained for their missions,” Hudson said. “We also plan to build a full-scale mock-up of the payload bay and develop other new exhibits with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math to further illustrate the rich history of the Air Force’s space programs and vital Air Force, NASA and aerospace industry partnerships.”

The new Space Gallery, where the CCT will eventually reside, is a part of a multi-phase, long-term expansion plan and will house the museum’s growing space collection. The gallery will include a Titan IV space launch vehicle; Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft; and many recently retired NASA artifacts such as a nose cap assembly, landing gear strut and a variety of astronaut equipment. In addition, a range of satellites and related items will showcase the Air Force’s vast reconnaissance, early warning, communications and other space-based capabilities. Other new exhibits will be developed to showcase Air Force technologies with many unique characteristics in design, propulsion, payload capacity, human factors, communication, range, speed and operating environment.

One of the unique features of the fourth building will be the creation of dedicated, interactive spaces for learning in the galleries. Three “Learning Nodes” will provide a unique environment for lectures and demonstrations, as well as extensions of the exhibit experience. These 60-seat “gallery classrooms” will allow museum staff to facilitate new science, technology, engineering and math experiences, while guest scientists and engineers from Air Force organizations, the aerospace industry, and area colleges and universities will be invited to share their expertise. Multimedia presentations will introduce students to air and space missions and the men and women responsible for their execution. When the nodes are not in use for scheduled programs, multimedia presentations will captivate public audiences.

The Air Force Museum Foundation, an IRS 501(c)(3) organization chartered to assist the National Museum of the United States Air Force with the development and expansion of facilities, is in the process of raising the funds to meet the growing requirements of the museum. Currently, $38 million has been secured by the Foundation for the fourth building project, which is expected to cost an estimated $48 million. The fourth building will house the Space Gallery, Presidential Aircraft Gallery and Global Reach Gallery featuring cargo and tanker aircraft.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Street, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission and parking are free.

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