More than 64,000 visitors thronged the Edwards ﬂightline for the base's 2006 open house. Aero enthusiasts queue up to tour NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a perennial favorite. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis) Following a three-year hiatus, the Edwards Air Force Base Open House and Airshow returns Oct. 17.
A number of Dryden aircraft are scheduled to be flown during the event, including the high-altitude ER-2, the civil variant of the Air Force U-2S aircraft. Additional aircraft scheduled to fly include an F/A-18, an F-15, a G-III and the YO3.
The Boeing Company's X-48B, as part of the Dryden exhibit in 2006, made its first public appearance and is planned as part of the static displays this year in Building 1600. Also in that location will be the Global Hawk and Ikhana unmanned aircraft systems. Also on the ground for viewing will be the NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, the F-16 XL, an F-16, F-15 no. 837, an F/A-18 aircraft and a T-34.
For those with interests about the heavens, there will be a display about an aircraft that will study the mysteries of space without leaving Earth. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is anticipated to fly above 99 percent of the water vapor in Earth's atmosphere, which obscures infrared astronomy from Earth-based telescopes. Missions around the world will provide new information vital to understanding the cosmos and the objects in it.
The SOFIA is a modified NASA 747SP that has a giant door in its side containing the world's largest airborne infrared telescope. The world-class telescope, which was built in Germany, will deploy to locations around the world to record unique cosmic events, such as comets, with greater ease of movement than telescopes based on Earth or in space.
To help people to see how infrared astronomy works, a camera will be set up for visitors to see how they and their friends and family appear in the infrared spectrum.
Dryden education office representatives will answer questions or provide information about NASA education programs and the Dryden Gift Shop also will have a presence at the event.
Another part of the NASA display will be representatives of area robotics and Lego League teams that are a part of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - FIRST - program. They will demonstrate their robots and answer questions about their participation and successes with the robotics events.
NASA is legendary for its work in space, such as the Apollo 11 mission that featured the first steps on the lunar surface by astronaut Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969. This year NASA celebrated the 40th anniversary of that event that still inspires people around the world.
Before NASA sent men to the moon, mighty, rocket-powered aircraft that touched the edge of space were flight-tested in the agency's aeronautics division. Many who visit the NASA exhibit will learn more about the sleek, black X-15 that 50 years ago redefined the limits of aviation and contributed to the Apollo mission.
People will have an opportunity to learn not only about the history of NASA aeronautics through a number of displays, but to experience some of it for themselves. An F-15 cockpit simulator can allow people to picture themselves in the pilot's seat lifting off the runways at Edwards.
When exhibit attendees exit the cockpit, they can learn about the wind tunnels that are used for researching the different aircraft shapes or the aerodynamics of various parts of an aircraft.
If visitors want to be released from their earthly cares for a few minutes, they can wait their turn at the photo kiosk, where they can be photographed on either the moon or Mars at no cost.
Developing space and aeronautics for the nation also results in technologies that have more earthly applications. For example, the work in NASA avionics led to wing shapes and aircraft control systems that are used on most civil, commercial and military aircraft.
For people who enjoy DVDs of research aircraft in action, there will be a number of rotating videos, including those featuring the Ikhana and Blended Wing Body aircraft, which are remotely piloted from a ground cockpit, and the Global Hawk aircraft that are flown by a pre-programmed mission program, but that can be ordered to execute other maneuvers if necessary.
In addition, Dryden's Jim Sokolik, an aerospace engineering technician, will demonstrate a full pressure suit that was used in the Mach 3 SR-71 program.
A pressure suit is a form of full-body protection that equips pilots to function in the hostile environments encountered at high altitude. Sokolik will explain how the pressure suit works, why it is required and the changes that have been made to newer designs.
Attendees at the annual event will see spectacular and breathtaking views on the field and in the skies and many people will have similar experiences learning about the latest technologies and testbeds that NASA is developing to explore space, advance aeronautics and reveal more about planet Earth and its environment.