Hundreds of thousands of people converge on a small upper Midwestern city every summer to celebrate aviation, especially experimental aircraft. Dozens of NASA employees are among the throngs who go to Oshkosh, Wis., for AirVenture, the country's biggest annual air show hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Some of those from NASA go on their own time and dime for fun. What's not to love about 10,000 aircraft of all shapes, sizes and ages parked over 1400 acres at Wittman Regional Airport? Many a NASA astronaut, pilot and engineer has window shopped or bought parts or even a new plane during the one-week show, which runs this year from July 23-29.
Others from NASA go to Wisconsin to work. NASA has its own pavilion that features the latest in agency aerospace research.
"NASA is excited to once again be part of the biggest annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts in the country," said Tony Springer, the head of communications and education for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.
Outside the NASA building this year, visitors can check out a one-15th scale, 26-foot-tall model, from NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center In Huntsville, Ala., of the rocket proposed for the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle.
A NASA F-18 Hornet research aircraft will land at EAA AirVenture and be parked at Aeroshell Square where the public can see it. The F-18 is used primarily as a safety chase and mission support aircraft at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. One of its recent missions was in support of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy or SOFIA, a Boeing 747SP jet that is equipped with an infrared telescope and will be used as a flying astronomical science observatory.
SOFIA is the subject of one of the exhibits in the NASA building, along with a display that celebrates an era when astronomy was used for navigation. NASA has teamed with Jamestown 2007, during this year's 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in North America, to promote the spirit of exploration then, now and in the future. Interactive exhibits at Oshkosh highlight some of the similarities facing settlers in 1607 and astronauts in 2007.
Returning this year by popular demand are craftsmen from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. They talk with visitors about machining and model making techniques and how they contribute to spacecraft designs. Among the items on display are space shuttle tiles, rocket models, a section of an inflatable space structure and an unmanned helicopter model.
Sightseers can also check out some of NASA's working models that have been used to develop aircraft designs. NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate has installed a special exhibit, called "Aerospace Design: The Art of Engineering from NASA's Aeronautical Research," in the EAA AirVenture Museum. Artifacts include architectural and engineering designs for wind tunnels, wind tunnel models, and designs for conceptual airplanes.
"The 'Aerospace Design' exhibit highlights some of the aeronautics contributions NASA has made in the past, the present and will continue to make in the future," said Springer, also one of the organizers of the "Aerospace Design' display. "It also celebrates the craftsmanship and legacy of thousands of NASA engineers, technicians and model makers who create beautiful and powerful designs while working to advance flight."
The design exhibit will stay at the EAA AirVenture Museum until October 21. Then it will head to the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA Langley Research Center