Tag Archives: Museum of Flight

ShuttleFest to celebrate arrival of crew section of shuttle trainer

Can that thing really fly? The NASA "Super Guppy" cargo plane will deliver the crew cabin of the space shuttle full fuselage trainer to the Museum of Flight in Seattle June 30, and will remain on display at the museum over the weekend. Photo: NASA.

The Museum of Flight is throwing a week-long shindig to celebrate the delivery of the main attraction of its new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. The 28-foot-long crew cabin section of the space shuttle full-fuselage trainer, the museum’s take from the end of the shuttle program, will be delivered June 30 aboard NASA’s “Super Guppy” cargo plane.

The Super Guppy will be piloted by astronaut and West Seattle native Greg Johnson, who will bring it in over Lake Washington and the Seattle Center before landing at Boeing Field at about 11 a.m. June 30. The plane and its cargo will be welcomed at a special ceremony by museum brass, local politicos, former astronauts, the Sounders band, and TV personality Steve Pool, who will be the Master of Cermonies for the event.

The Super Guppy will remain at the museum for the weekend, open for tours on Sunday, July 1, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Johnson will give a talk about the astronaut biz that day at 2 p.m.

The space shuttle crew cabin is being separated from the fuselage at NASA Johnson Space Center before its delivery to The Museum of Flight. Photo: NASA.

ShuttleFest will include three book signings during the following week. Ted Huetter, public relations manager at the Museum of Flight, will autograph copies of his book, Edwards Air Force Base (Images of Aviation), July 2. Huetter was an aviation writer at the base during the 1990s. Sam Howe Verhovek will sign copies of his book Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World July 3. Dr. Dean Hunter, author of For Love of Life and Country, will autograph his book July 6. All of the book signings will run from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the museum. Books are available at the museum store, or through the links above.

The week’s festivities conclude with a Boogie Woogie Hangar Dance at the museum Saturday, July 7 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. The dance will feature the legendary Harry James Orchestra with the incomparable horn of Fred Radke and the captivating vocals of Gina Funes. Tickets are $25 for museum members, $30 for general public, and are available online.


Company aims to turn sci-fi of asteroid mining into profitable fact

Planetary Resources, Inc. held a coming-out party at Seattle’s Museum of Flight Tuesday morning, with co-founder and co-chairman Peter Diamandis spelling out the simple, yet audacious, aim of the company.

“The vision of Planetary Resources is to make the resources of space available to man both in space and here on Earth,” he said.

Planetary Resources

The leadership of Planetary Resources, Inc. gathered at the Museum of Flight April 24 for a news conference to talk about the company's plans to mine asteroids. From L-R: Peter Diamandis, Eric Anderson, Chris Lewicki, and Tom Jones. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Diamandis acknowledged the wild, science-fiction nature of the notion of sending robots to asteroids to mine them for the resources we need on Earth and to further explore space. In fact, he gives sci-fi credit for shaping his personal dreams, held since his early teens, of being an asteroid miner.

“Part of it is the spirit of extraordinary writers and artists like Heinlein and Clarke and Bonestell who envisioned what the future would look like,” he said. “Ultimately my passion about opening up space makes the vision of asteroid mining not only a reality, but something that we need to do.”

The company is on a fast track. Eric Anderson, co-founder and co-chairman, said they plan to launch their first spacecraft within 24 months, and seemed a bit taken aback at the enthusiastic applause the announcement generated.

“This company is not about paper studies. This company is not about thinking and dreaming about asteroid mining,” Anderson said. “This company is about creating a space economy beyond the Earth. It’s about building real hardware. It’s about doing real things in space to move the needle forward.”

The concept is attractively simple. Use private investors and innovators to drive down the cost of space exploration. Get the technology up in space to start examining the nine thousand near-Earth asteroids to determine which might be rich in water and precious minerals useful here on the home planet and to those who may further explore space. Send up robots to mine those materials and bring them home.

Sure, it may sound easy.

“It’s very difficult, no question,” Diamandis said, “but the return economically and the benefits for humanity are extraordinary.”

Anderson agreed.

“There will be times when we fail, there will be times when we have to pick up the pieces and try again. But we’re going to do it,” he said. “We’re not going to talk about it, we’re just going to do it.”

Planetary Resources is based in Bellevue, Wash. Chris Lewicki, the company’s president and chief engineer, said they looked at a lot of places before settling on the Seattle area.


A model of the Arkyd 101, the space telescope Planetary Resources plans to launch within the next 24 months to start prospecting for asteroids to mine. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“Some of our investors were here, some of our partners were here, and it’s a beautiful place to live,” Lewicki said in explaining the choice. “All of the infrastructure and the industry that’s in the area is what we need to be able to do this.”

The company has been in existence since 2009 under the name Arkyd Aeronautics. Planetary Resources spacecraft will bear the Arkyd name. Part of the reason they’re going public with a big splash now is that they need to hire more engineers, according to Lewicki. Diamandis added that the game has changed.

“There’s a rising tide going on right now in commercial space,” he said, noting the booming investment in launch technology and in lunar and asteroid missions. Having more capital is a big deal. “That changes the equation and allows us to go much further much faster than ever before in opening up space for the benefit of all.”

The investors, for the most part, remained on the sideline, though one of them, Ross Perot, Jr., praised the effort by telephone and Charles Simonyi was on hand to make a few remarks.

“I don’t think this would be an appropriate investment for NASA,” Simonyi said of the venture. “I think that this is where private enterprise comes in. The genius of the system is that private investors can take the risks.”

“I’m very excited about what you guys are doing, I’m very proud of you and feel privileged to be a part of it,” he added.

They’ve certainly generated some buzz. A large group of reporters turned out for the news conference and hundreds of people chipped in $25 for lunch to hear about it first hand. It’s fair to say most of them are boosters. It will be interesting to watch the dream unfold.



Company’s big goal to expand Earth’s resource base

Planetary Resources logo

A new company to be formally launched tomorrow during a news conference at Seattle’s Museum of Flight will take wing with the ambitious goal to “expand Earth’s resource base.”

A news release from Planetary Resources, Inc. through the museum calls the company:

…a new space venture with a mission to help ensure humanity’s prosperity…[T]he company will overlay two critical sectors—space exploration and natural resources—to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources’.

This may sound pretty lofty, but the company may have the coin to pull it off. The release lists an impressive group of investors, including billionaire space tourist and former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi; Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt; film maker James Cameron; K. Ram Shriram, an early Google investor and founder of Sherpalo; and Ross Perot, Jr., chairman of Hillwood Development Corporation and The Perot Group.

As reported here last week, the April 24 news conference and luncheon will include presentations by Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, Ltd.; Peter H. Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize Foundation; Astronaut Tom Jones; and Chris Lewicki, former NASA Mars rover and lander flight director and mission manager. All are now listed as investors in and/or advisors to Planetary Resources, Inc.

Seattle Astronomy will attend the event Tuesday and file a full report.


Seattle Museum of Flight set to reveal future of space exploration

The Museum of Flight is promising a glimpse at the future of space exploration at an event next Tuesday, April 24. An invitation sent to museum patrons last week touted the “opportunity to discover what the next great advancement of humanity will be.” The invite went on to say:

A new company will be unveiling its mission to revolutionize current space exploration activities and ultimately create a better standard of living on Earth. Don’t miss your opportunity to be among the first to find out what’s next from the world’s leading commercial space pioneers and the people who will chart the future.

Simonyi Gallery

The Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight in Seattle will be the site of a news conference and luncheon Tuesday, April 24 about the future of space exploration. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

The April 24 event in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the museum gets under way at 10:30 a.m. and includes a news conference and luncheon with presentations. The lineup of space luminaries scheduled to attend includes:

  • Charles Simonyi, billionaire space tourist and museum benefactor
  • Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures, Ltd.
  • Peter H. Diamandis, M.D., chairman of the X Prize Foundation
  • Astronaut Tom Jones, Ph. D.
  • Chris Lewicki, former NASA Mars rover and lander flight director and mission manager

After the luncheon, starting at about 1:30 p.m., Diamandis and Jones will sign books for attendees. Diamandis is a co-author of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think and Jones penned several books, including Planetology: Unlocking the Secrets of the Solar System and Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Memoir.

Cost for the event is $25. You can find more information and pay online at the Museum of Flight website.

Seattle Astronomy will attend the event and post a full report.

Keep up on local astronomy events by following the Seattle Astronomy calendar.


Mars in focus at observatory and museum

Theodor Jacobsen Observatory

The first open house of the year at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory on the UW campus will be held Wednesday, April 4. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Another sign of spring arrives this week in Seattle. Twice-monthly open houses resume at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory on the University of Washington campus. The first event of the year will be held Wednesday, April 4 beginning at 8 p.m.

Dr. Ana Larson, senior lecturer at UW who is the observatory director, will give a talk titled “You Are the First Kid on Mars” based on the book by Patrick O’Brien. Larson will explore effects of microgravity in space, the lower gravity of Mars, and what it might be like should we ever really colonize Mars. Reservations are strongly recommended as the classroom at the observatory holds only 45 people. Mars is just a month past opposition and in prime position for observing. If the weather cooperates visitors will be able to get a look at the Red Planet through the observatory’s vintage telescope, operated by volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society. Even if it is cloudy, tours of the observatory are fun and informative.

Open houses at Jacobsen Observatory will be held the first and third Wednesday of every month through October.

Mars will be in the spotlight this weekend at the Museum of Flight, where visitors will be able to take a simulated voyage to the Red Planet through the museum’s Challenger Learning Center. The mission starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 7. Call 206-764-1384 to pre-register. Cost, which includes museum admission, is $15 for adults, $10 for youth under 18, $3 off for museum members.

Keep up with local happenings by visiting the Seattle Astronomy Calendar.


Celebrating 50 years in orbit

Mercury 7

The Mercury 7 astronauts were enormous American heroes, and John Glenn was the biggest name of them all. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth 50 years ago, on Feb. 20, 1962. Photo: NASA.

For a nation that sometimes seems obsessed with meaningless milestones, there sure wasn’t much hullabaloo today to mark the 50th anniversary of the first American orbital space flight. On this date in 1962 John Glenn orbited the Earth three times, and it was the first small step of the giant leap to the Moon by the end of the decade.

Roger Launius, curator of the space section of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian and a former NASA chief historian, spoke Sunday at the Museum of Flight in Seattle about the historical significance of that first orbital mission.

“John Glenn, the most popular of the Mercury 7 astronauts, the one who was the most glib, the most forthcoming, the most extroverted, the one who spoke so incredibly well about everything, was the man who carried the standard for Americans into Earth orbit,” Launius said. “It seems quite fitting that he did so.”

Launuis spoke with true affection for Glenn, whom he knows well and describes as one of the nicest men he has ever met. One of the more interesting stories Launius told during the talk was about how Glenn practically smuggled a drugstore camera onto his Friendship 7 flight.

“Nobody at NASA at the time seemed to realize that people would want pictures of Earth from space,” Launius marveled about the agency that now puts out terabytes worth of photos. “Hard to believe. But they were engineers and they were mostly concerned with the technical stuff.”

GI Joe in space

GI Joe was NOT the first man in space, but many of us who grew up in the 1960s had the GI Joe Mercury capsule, and splashed it down in whatever bodies of water we could create in our backyards. This one is on display at Seattle's Museum of Flight. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“[Glenn] took those pictures, they were developed and released to the public, and everybody went crazy, and everybody at NASA said, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’” Launius said. “It set a standard for what would become normal activity of all human spaceflight missions up to the present.”

The Mercury 7 astronauts achieved hero status even before they accomplished much of anything, which Launius said baffled most of them. But he said the recognition was deserved as the astronauts were the point people for an enormous effort.

“It’s important to remember that while these guys get the fame and the accolades—and clearly they deserve that; they’re the ones risking their lives in a very difficult setting—they have thousands of people behind them making it possible for them to do that,” Launius said.

Glenn had the right stuff to achieve greater fame than any of the others. Launius said that Glenn quit the space program out of concern he would never get to fly again; NASA probably would not want to risk losing the most visible icon of the space age. When Glenn finally did fly again he created quite a stir. It was 1998 when he flew on a mission of the space shuttle Discovery and became, at 77, the oldest person to travel in space. Launius noted that by then the shuttle missions had become mundane in the public eye.

Mercury capsule

Astronauts rode in Mercury capsules less than 10 feet long and barely six feet in diameter at the base. The thing hurtled through space at speeds greater than 17,000 MPH. This mockup is at the Museum of Flight. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“John Glenn is approved to fly into space a second time, and it again is like 1962,” Launius said. “Everybody is excited, all the media show up, and the public is energized in ways I had never seen previously. It was a stunning accomplishment, and it says a lot about the character and the mindset of the public in relationship to this hero that goes back now 50 years.”

Launius is amazed at what we accomplished in such a short time after the Mercury 7 astronauts were introduced in 1959.

“Within a decade we were standing on the Moon and putting the American flag on it, and demonstrating to the world that we are second to none when it comes to science and technology,” he said. “That’s fundamentally what Apollo was about.”

Now, Launius says, we’re poised to take the next giant leap.

“Earth orbit is no longer a frontier. When John Glenn flew in 1962 it was very much a frontier,” he said. “This is now a normal realm of human activity.”

“In 50 years we’ve gone a long way,” he added. “One would like to think in the next 50 years we will go much beyond this.”


Top Mars scientist to give talk at UW

There are several interesting talks on the Seattle Astronomy calendar for the next week.


CuriosityOne of the scientific leaders of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission will give a talk in Seattle next week. Dr. Pamela Conrad of the Planetary Environments Lab, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center will speak on “Assessing the Habitability of Mars: Exploring Gale Crater with the Curiosity Rover.”

Curiosity is on its way to Mars, scheduled to land in Gale Crater on Aug. 5. Conrad will explain how the rover will go about determining if Mars is or ever has been capable of supporting life.

The free talk will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 in room 210 of Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus. The talk is sponsored by the UW Astrobiology Program and Astronomy Department.

The Right Stuff

Robots in Space
This Sunday the senior curator  in the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum will give a talk at the Museum of Flight about “The Right Stuff Revisited: Project Mercury 50 Years On.” Roger Launius, former chief historian for NASA, will look back at the Project Mercury space program and the individuals who carried it out, and discuss what it means today on the eve of the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s first U.S. orbital flight.

Launius, co-author of Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel, is a compelling speaker who gave a couple of talks here in 2010.

The talk begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 at the museum. Free with admission.


Worried about the world ending this December? Alice Enevoldsen says you shouldn’t be. The author of Alice’s Astro Info and planetarium whiz at the Pacific Science Center will discuss “The 2012 Hoax: The Kitchen Sink” at tonight’s meeting of the Seattle Astronomical Society. The kitchen sink of apocalyptic indicators includes the planet Nibiru, the rollover of the Maya Long Count, a long-expected and non-conjunction of planets, some sunspots, and a lack of reversal in the Earth’s magnetic field, and the continued alignment of the Earth, Sun, and galactic center. Enevoldsen will debunk the doomsayers.

SAS meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15 in room A-102 of the Physics/Astronomy Building at the University of Washington in Seattle. It’s free and open to the public.

Keep on top of space and astronomy related events in the area by following the Seattle Astronomy calendar.