NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center
NASA 905, the iconic Shuttle Carrier Aircraft that ferried NASA's space shuttles to and from launch and landing sites for 35 years, will become the focus of a major new exhibit at Space Center Houston, the visitor center adjacent to NASA's Johnson Space Center.
The Johnson Space Center officially transferred ownership of the highly modified early-model Boeing 747 jetliner to the privately operated visitor center May 2. The converted jetliner and a full-size space shuttle mockup that had previously been at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will become the centerpiece of a new $12 million exhibit complex being created at Space Center Houston in tribute to the legendary Space Shuttle Program.
The six-story-tall exhibit will allow visitors to actually go aboard both the modified 747 and the shuttle mockup mounted on top, just as the real shuttles were mounted during their cross-country ferry flights.
[image-62] Built in 1970 and acquired by NASA from American Airlines in 1974, the 747 was flown in wake vortex research studies by NASA's Flight Research Center, now the Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before being modified by Boeing for its new role as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). It carried the prototype shuttle Enterprise aloft in 1977 and launched it five times during the space shuttle Approach and Landing Tests at NASA Dryden.
NASA 905 then underwent further modifications for the ferry flight role it would have over more than three decades. It flew 70 of the 87 ferry flights during the shuttle program's operational phase, including 46 of the 54 post-mission ferry flights from NASA Dryden to the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA 905 last service for the Space Shuttle Program was to ferry the Enterprise and the operational shuttles Discovery and Endeavour to their retirement homes in New York, Dulles Airport near Washington DC and Los Angeles respectively in 2012. It then departed NASA Dryden for the last time on Oct. 24, 2012, flying to Ellington Field in Houston to await its final retirement and disposition. It last flew when it was taken aloft on a 90-minute pilot proficiency flight in December 2012.
Space Center Houston plans for the shuttle and 747 carrier exhibit to not only be a public attraction, but to also serve as the centerpiece for new educational programs to inspire students to consider careers in engineering, technological and science.
Moving the big 747, which is 231 feet long with a wingspan of 195 feet, from Ellington Field to the visitor center in Houston is targeted for this coming November. The Boeing Company will fund and perform disassembly of the SCA to allow for transport to the visitor center and re-assembly of the aircraft on-site.
Once transport and reassembly of the aircraft is complete, Space Center Houston plans to construct a tower structure, including an elevator, to provide public access to the interiors of the SCA and orbiter. Completion and opening of the new exhibit complex is planned for early 2015.
For more on the planned display of NASA SCA 905 and the shuttle mockup, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/home/shuttle_carrier.html,
For more on NASA's now-concluded Space Shuttle Program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/flyout/index.html