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October 9, 2014

Road Report: Houston, We Have Affiliate Liftoff!

Road Report- Harold, October 8, 2014

Houston, we have liftoff!

The first thing you see when you pull into the parking lot of Space Center Houston is a full-scale space shuttle replica perched upon a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.  It’s a neck-stretching sight, and an awesome introduction to the many wonders of our new Smithsonian Affiliate.

Space shuttle replica atop a NASA shuttle carrier

Space shuttle replica atop a NASA shuttle carrier

Opened in 1992, Space Center Houston boggles your brain, tugs at your heart, and sparks your imagination at every turn – it’s the story of spaceflight under one (very large) roof, with many more roofs (and displays) next door at the Johnson Space Center.

Richard Allen, Chief Executive Officer, Space Center Houston, in front of Mercury Space Capsule on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

Richard Allen, Chief Executive Officer, Space Center Houston, in front of Mercury Space Capsule on loan from the National Air and Space Museum.

Richard Allen, Space Center Houston chief executive officer, and his hard working staff have created a diverse array of engaging experiences – large-format film theaters, interactive spaces for children of all ages, demonstration stages led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic interpreters, and dramatically lit exhibitions that tell the inspiring history of the U.S. space program –  its triumphs, tragedies, and enduring influence on our dreams of the future.

Mars Rover prototype on loan from NASM.

Mars Rover prototype on loan from NASM.

Of course, it was a pleasure to see so many artifacts on loan from our National Air and Space Museum (NASM), employed to give an accurate and detailed rendering of the history of spaceflight – command modules like the “Faith 7” Mercury capsule, Gemini 5 and Apollo 17, spacesuits worn by astronauts Michael Collins, Pete Conrad and “Wally” Schirra, a walkthrough Skylab, and a Mars rover prototype – to name just a few.  If you take the tour of the Johnson Space Center, you’ll also see a lovingly restored Saturn V Rocket, also on loan from NASM, displayed horizontally in a building nearly 400 feet long.  The thought of sitting atop this engineering marvel, waiting to be propelled to the moon, sends shivers down your spine.

Richard Allen and Meg Naumann, Director of Development, in front of the Saturn V rocket, also on loan from NASM.

Richard Allen and Meg Naumann, Director of Development, in front of the Saturn V rocket, also on loan from NASM.

There’s never enough time to see everything going on at an Affiliate museum or to meet all of the incredible folks who make it happen –  staff, volunteers, and supporters – but after a day-and-a half in San Antonio, at The Witte Museum and the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, and six hours at Space Center Houston, I came away with the distinct impression that “The Lone Star State” has a lot more than one star in its firmament.  We are honored that so many Texas luminaries populate our galaxy of Smithsonian Affiliates.

Catch up on Harold’s Witte Museum blog here.

April 13, 2011

NASA + Smithsonian + Smithsonian Affiliates = Blissful retirement for space artifacts

Space Shuttle Endeavour is moments away from touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, bringing to a close the STS-113 mission to the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA

On April 12, 2011 NASA announced new homes for three space shuttles soon to be retired from the space program at the end of this summer. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center   will receive the Discovery and the California Science Center  a Smithsonian Affiliate in Los Angeles, California,  will receive the Endeavour.  

But NASA isn’t just retiring the gigantic shuttles.  Hundreds of space artifacts are also included in the retirement plan and several more Smithsonian Affiliates will have the honor of exhibiting them.   

 These NASA objects join Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) artifacts already on long-term loan to these Affiliates and enjoyed daily by museum goers across the country.

The Saturn V Rocket at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Photo courtesy U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

  • At the Adler Planetarium, visitors can see the Gemini 12 Space Capsule flown by Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin in 1966.
  • The Aerobee 350 Sounding Rocket has recently been conserved at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum and will be on view for visitors to the museum soon. 
  • From space food to drawings to space suits, The Museum of Flight has delighted visitors to the museum with NASM artifacts for many years.
  • The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is home to the Saturn V Rocket and many other artifacts such as space instruments and technical devices.

 Of course, the history of the American space program and many more historic artifacts from the National Air and Space Museum can be can be seen in numerous Smithsonian Affiliate museums from Portage, Michigan to San Diego, California.  There are 168 Smithsonian Affiliates in 40 states, D.C., Panama and Puerto Rico.  More than 1,000 artifacts are currently on view at Affiliates across the country just waiting for visitors to experience the Smithsonian in their own neighborhood.  Visit a Smithsonian Affiliate in your community today!

Gemini 12 at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Photo courtesy Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum.

 

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