by Jet Fabara
412th Test Wing Public Affairs
8/27/2014 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A
structure synonymous with NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center for
the past 38 years -- the grey-colored space shuttle Mate-Demate Device
here -- is being dismantled and demolished as a part of the final
chapter in the U.S. space shuttle program.
The decision comes three years after the shuttle program ended, and six
years since it last supported turnaround operations after the last
shuttle landing at Edwards.
"People at this base know that the MDD has definitely become a part of
the landscape. When you drive onto base, it's one of the landmarks you
see, and it will leave a hole in your heart when it's gone, but this
process is part of the nature of the programs we work out here. When the
equipment is no longer needed, it's in the best interest of the
taxpayer to not continue to maintain and upkeep unused structures," said
David McBride, NASA Armstrong Center director.
Being one of only two such structures built, the MDD at NASA Armstrong
is being dismantled by Pantano Demolition of Manteca, Calif., under a
$178,700 contract. The firm plans to recycle as much of the steel used
in the structure as possible for future reutilization.
"Even though it's a steel structure, you just can't ignore it, because
even in the desert things corrode and rust. While there is funding and
interest, it's better to demolish it and get it safely out of here,"
McBride said. "Since there's a market for reusing the scrap steel,
somehow that steel will come back to life somewhere."
According to NASA's AFRC Public Affairs Office, the shuttle-specific MDD
was reviewed for possible reuse for other potential project work, but
no projects requiring its specialized capabilities were found. It is
being dismantled and then demolished in accordance with federal
regulations regarding retention or demolition of unused federal
"This really did take a team effort. Edwards AFB has always been a key
partner with everything we've done here to include all the support with
the entire shuttle program during its tenure," added McBride.
The 110-foot tall, gantry-like MDD structure was used for de-servicing
the space shuttles after they landed at Edwards and for lifting and
placing them on NASA's modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for
their ferry flights back to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Constructed in 1976 at a cost of $1.7 million, the MDD was first used in
1977 for the prototype shuttle orbiter Enterprise's approach and
landing tests. It was last used for turnaround operations of the shuttle
Discovery following its STS-128 mission that landed at Edwards in 2009.
In total, it supported 59 shuttle landings over 32 years, five in the
Approach and Landings Tests with the prototype shuttle Enterprise in
1977 and 54 orbital missions after their return from space.
Information courtesy of NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center Public Affairs Office