VA -- Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center -- Space Hangar:
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- AIRS_031206_024.JPG: They're still setting things up in here so, initially, they're not allowing people to get into this hanger. The vehicle closest to you is the Mercury capsule 15B Freedom 7 II. The upright one is the Gemini VII capsule.
- AIRS_031206_093.JPG: Mercury Capsule 15B
Freedom 7 II
This Mercury capsule is the only one left showing the complete spacecraft in its orbital configuration. It includes the silver and black retrorocket package used to slow the capsule for return to Earth, and the nose section containing the parachutes.
Alan B Shepard Jr, the first American in space, hoped to fly this Mercury capsule on a long-duration orbital mission in late 1963 called Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10). After the success of MA-9, flown by astronaut Gordon Cooper in May 1963, NASA cancelled MA-10 to concentrate on its next human spaceflight project, Gemini. Reflecting Shepard's hope of flying in space again, he had the name Freedom 7 II painted on the aircraft in tribute to his historic 1961 capsule, Freedom 7.
- AIRS_031206_100.JPG: Gemini VII
Frank Borman and James A Lovell Jr lifted off aboard Gemini VII on December 4, 1965. Their primary mission was to show that humans could live in weightlessness for 14 days, an endurance record that stood until 1970. Their spacecraft also served as the target vehicle for Gemini VI-A, piloted by Walter M Shirra Jr and Thomas P Stafford, who carried out the world's first space rendezvous on December 15. These two achievements were critical steps on the road to the Moon.
The configuration shown here is the only part of Gemini that returned to Earth. Behind the heat shield was an adapter section containing propellants for the maneuvering thrusters, fuel cells for electric power, and retrorockets to return to Earth. It was jettisoned before reentry. The nose section was discarded during deployment of the main parachute, and the spacecraft landed on the ocean with the hatches facing up.
- AIRS_031215_017.JPG: Space Shuttle Enterprise
The first Space Shuttle orbiter, Enterprise is a full-scale test vehicle used for flights in the atmosphere and tests on the ground. Officially designated Orbiter Vehicle 101 (OV-101), Enterprise is not equipped for spaceflight. It has no propulsion systems and only simulated thermal tiles.
In 1977, Enterprise completed approach and landing tests as NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California. It was flown atop a Boeing 747 carrier airplane and also released for piloted descents to check out its systems and performance. It later underwent launch vibration tests and fit checks at other NASA centers. Although Enterprise never flew in space, it introduced a new era in space transportation and was the flagship for a fleet of reusable shuttles. The Smithsonian acquired Enterprise in 1985.
- AIRS_031215_034.JPG: Vega Solar System Probe Bus and Landing Apparatus
In 1984, the Soviet Union launched the Vega 1 and Vega 2 spacecraft, which flew by Venus and dispatched atmospheric instruments and landers, then went on to pass through the tail of Comet Halley. The multinational mission involved scientists and instruments from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, East and West Germany, Hungary, Poland, the United States, and the Soviet Union, and marked a new era of international cooperation for the Soviet space program.
French scientists designed Vega's main Venus experiment, a balloon carrying scientific instruments that was released into the atmosphere to measure cloud activity. Each Vega also released a Soviet-designed lander to investigate the planet's surface. This bus, for carrying the atmospheric experiment, and the landing apparatus are engineering models.
- AIRS_031215_051.JPG: Mobile Quarantine Facility
This Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) was one of four built by NASA for astronauts returning from the Moon. Its purposed was to prevent the unlikely spread of lunar contagions by isolating the astronauts from contact with other people. A converted Airstream trailer, the MQF contained living and sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Quarantine was assured by keeping the air pressure inside lower than the pressure outside and by filtering the air vented from the facility.
This MQF was used by Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins immediately after their return to Earth. They remained in it for 65 hours, while the MQF was flown from the aircraft carrier Hornet to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. They were allowed to emerge from isolation once scientists were sure they were not infected with "moon germs."
- AIRS_031215_064.JPG: Apollo Boilerplate Command Module
NASA built several "boilerplate" Apollo command modules for testing and to train astronauts and other mission crew members. This one is made of aluminum with a fiberglass outer shell and has an actual command module hatch. It was used by Apollo astronauts, including the crew of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission, to practice routine and emergency exits. The interior was later fitted with actual or mockup components to simulate either the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft or a five-person rescue vehicle proposed for the Skylab program.
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