Much ado about Shuttles was the retirement theme song last year when NASA announced the new homes for Enterprise, Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis after they are made safe for public consumption. However, less attention was given to the many Shuttle Simulators.
Me with FFT in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility, Feb 2010
While they haven't "flown" in space, they were integral to the success of the entire Shuttle program and may be even more exciting museum show pieces, since people will be able to ENTER and TOUCH them. Real shuttles? Not so much.
And so begins the "Full Fuselage Trainer Retirement Processing". Johnson Space Center's FFT is a full-sized (120-foot long) plywood replica that every Shuttle astronaut utilized in the past 32 years, serving all 135 missions.
Tim atop the 20-ton crane, looking over the FFT, Jan 2010
This huge Space Shuttle Simulator was manufactured by the Technical Services Division in 1979, and features a full-size payload bay with video system, full communication system, breathing air system, and external airlock with cooling water loops for EMU suits.
In November 2011, the FFT was separated into three sections: crew compartment and nose, payload bay, and aft section and tail. Then in January, a ceremony was held to transfer ownership to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, who eagerly await their new prize.
Now pulling apart the FFT in pieces
The cargo bay is being further cut into 30-foot sections and the payload doors will be detached prior to trucking to Houston's Ellington Field – and getting all the pieces there will require removing and lowering street signs and traffic signals to clear the shuttle mockup's height!
Later this spring, it will require up to six flights of NASA's Airbus cargo aircraft, the Super Guppy, to get all the pieces to Washington State.
It's just so strange to think of it NOT being in JSC Building 9 anymore! Also difficult to think of the SVMF having a large, empty space… even just temporarily.
Lifting out the FFT tail
All pieces will be re-assembled inside the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. Due to open in June 2012, their interactive "Spaceflight Academy" exhibit will tell the story of how shuttle astronauts trained for missions and how the entire Shuttle program helped prepare our species to explore farther into our solar system by teaching us to live and work in space.
Very special thanks to JSC veterans Mike Allyn (ISS Command & Data Handling) and Tim Reynolds (SVMF Operations Control) for taking and/or being in some of the great photos in today's post! To see Mike's NASA collection, go to his Flickr Photostream. To see my galleries of the SVMF, go to my Picasa Galleries!