The 2009 Update
By Phil Reeder
Welcome to the fourth in a series of yearly update articles which are intended to supplement the series of one-day articles and "Specials" I have written since my first Space Camp adventure in 2005.
This article is way, way, way overdue for various reasons, but during the time between when it should have been published, and the time it has been published some rather important changes have taken place in the Aero/Space industry, and in the usual format I present my articles.
The Constellation Programme, the programme NASA hoped would follow on from the Space Shuttle and take American astronauts firstly back into Earth orbit and from there back to the Moon and beyond has now been cancelled, with NASA now being tasked to work with other contractors within the Aero-Space industry to develop the next generation of spacecraft.
Also in the past I have tried to make my articles as photo intensive as possible working from the simple premise that "one picture is worth a thousand words". For this article that will not be the case, as in my opinion, the ONE and only picture this article will contain will be worth a million words – read-on.
The Floor of the MCC
I mentioned in my update article of last year that Space Camp would shortly be going through a process of great change, a change which would see Space Shuttle based training slowly being phased out as training for the new Constellation initiatives with its Ares, Orion and Altair programmes starts taking its place – sadly Constellation is gone, but the space camp initiative to provide training based around what Constellation could have been lives on..
I am very pleased to be able to report that this change is taking place even "NOW", whilst I type these very words. During my yearly training stint at the beginning of October I was able to witness first hand the beginnings of the transformation of the training floor of the MCC from its old space shuttle based state into a new and exciting training area which will feature the Orion CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle), the Altair (Lunar Lander), a lunar surface training area equipped for Lunar exploration, a Lunar Rover and not one but two Lunar Bases.
I watched with just a hint of sadness as the old ISS science training module, a module which had faithfully served an entire generation of Space Camp trainees, and which had recently dominated that part of the MCC floor, was slowly ripped apart by the camp's technical staff using hammers and power saws. The Discovery shuttle training simulator, the simulator equipped with a servo-hydraulic system to allow trainees to actually experience the back and forth, side to side movement of the space shuttle in flight had already been removed from the MCC floor and was outside covered in tarpaulins waiting to return to the floor of the MCC and be re-located in a new position.
In a briefing lecture later in the week the new Head of Aerospace Programs for Space Camp and Aviation Challenge, Jason Lanier, outlined the changes that were going to take place at Space Camp, changes which the camp hopes to have up and running by September of next year. His briefing lecture started with an update on the current state of NASA's Constellation Programmes and made a progressive shift from what NASA hopes to achieve, to what Space Camp is "going" to achieve in the next twelve months.
The attached picture shows the most recent technical layout for the floor of the MCC and the new and exciting training simulators which will take its place and how they will be placed on the floor of the MCC.
My latest information from the camp also indicates that specialist contractors are even now building the new simulators for use of the floor of the MCC, with Space Camp staff co-ordinating with them to ensure that everything is done just right. The plans of how everything will eventually look are still very fluid in nature, but every new change which has been added is designed to make the entire new experience that much more enjoyable
In my opinion there are new and exciting times ahead for the trainees of the various Space Camp programmes – programmes which I plan to be a part of.
NASA may not be going back to the Moon anytime soon,
but via Space Camp we hope to be going there later this year.
The Davison Centre for Space Exploration
My yearly visit to Space Camp last year allowed me my first opportunity to witness first hand the magnificent "Davison Centre for Space Exploration", the new 22 million dollar home for the US Space and Rocket Centre's Saturn Five.
One could say that this great building has been in the process of creation since the early days of the US Space and Rocket Centre, as it was the eventual logical step to take to ensure that the USSRC's Saturn 5 did not totally disintegrate from having to spend a lifetime on display outside, a victim to elements which I have had the sad opportunity to witness first hand.
For those who wish to know more about the Saturn 5 and its progression route from the Marshall Spaceflight Research Centre to its new home in the Davison Centre for Space Exploration I would advice reading the Space Camp Special I wrote last year (there are lots and lots and lots of pictures).
Since my visit of last year the Davison building has continued in what appears to be an on-going mission by the USSRC to re-house within it all its Apollo based exhibits. The Apollo 10 Command Module, the Lunar Rover, the Lunar Module and various Apollo based rocket engines and other Apollo based artifacts, all of which had been previously housed either within the main USSRC building or on the grounds, have now been lovingly relocated to within the Davison building. The Quarantine Van, which housed Pete Conrad, Alan Bean and Dick Gordon, the Apollo 12 astronauts after their return from the Moon has now been lovingly restored to its former glory after years exposed to the outside elements on what I understand was a chicken farm.
A huge, half million dollar exhibit on propulsion has been donated by Pratt and Whitney/Rocketdyne and now resides within the Davidson building. This exhibit allows visitors to witness first hand what its was like to be present at the test firing of a single Saturn 5 main engine and to feel the sound and vibration the engine would create as it was fired up.
Also present is the Steve Eves flown Saturn Five, the 1/10th scale model launched earlier this year to make the 40th anniversary of mankind's first landing on the surface of another world (details available via Google search).
Another series of three 1/10th scale models featuring the Apollo Saturn 5, the Ares 1 with its Orion CEV and the Ares 5 cargo booster have been put on display in the Davison building to illustrate to visitors the comparisons between the Apollo technology of the 60's and 70's and the new technology which is being designed to replace it, technology which will once again take Americans back into Earth orbit after the end of the space shuttle programme and from there back to the Moon and beyond.
The LDM – Long Duration Mission
I started this article by discussing the changes which are currently taking place on the floor of the Space Camp's MCC. Whilst these changes take place, the day to day life of Space Camp and the various training scenarios which take place on the floor of the MCC must continue.
One of the scenarios run off the floor of the MCC is the 8-day, Advanced, Adult Space Academy – Long Duration Mission or LDM as it is more commonly referred and this too has undergone a process of change in the last 12 months.
One of the very last items at the end of the 8-day programme has always been the completion of the programme evaluation form, the form used by Space Camp to get various forms of feedback on the 8-day programme and the entire Space Camp experience that the trainees have been a part of during their stay. Since my first days at Space Camp the trainees of the 8-day programme have also used this form to make many and varied requests on how the programme could be changed for the better, and the great thing is – the camp listens, takes on-board our suggestions and requests, and implements them if possible.
Over the last 12 months various requests had been made about the LDM and I am very pleased to be able to report that a great change had taken place in this part of the training programme. MOCR – the Mission Operations Control Room has taken on a new life as the work the trainees would be required to undertake during the LDM has been not only extended, but been up-graded as well. A "Tiger-Team", a team specifically tasked with solving the many and varied anomalies which occur during the LDM has been created allowing the trainees to become even more involved on the ground, with the problems which were occurring in space on the shuttle and the International Space Station.
A second shuttle launch became a part of this year's LDM, allowing MOCR based trainees to gain both launch and landing experience during the Long Duration Mission as they were required to take part in a rescue mission after the original shuttle launched at the start of the LDM had become irreparably meteor damaged and unable to return to Earth.
These two new additions to the old LDM schedule made for a new LDM schedule which would tax the requirements of the trainees to the limit and make for a much more exciting and enjoyable LDM experience over the entire 24 hour period.
The Ed Buckbee Lecture
In the update article of two years ago I made mention of the incredible lecture given to us by Ed Buckbee, long time advocate of space exploration, and one of the people who had been with NASA from virtually day one. In previous years Ed has talked about NASA with particular attention paid to his relationship with the original Mercury astronauts, the Mercury Seven, "The Real Space Cowboys".
This year's lecture took on a new direction as Ed discussed the Apollo programme. What has been written and broadcast in one form or another about the Apollo programme could fill entire libraries, but what makes Ed Buckbee's lectures so fascinating are all the little stories he tells, the things that never, for one reason or another reach the eyes and ears of the general public. This is yet another example of the type of "inside track" you get from being a trainee on the 8-day programme.
Irene's Other Warehouse
In last year's article I told you about the amazing treasure house of space memorabilia that Irene Willhite, the curator of the US Space and Rocket Centre has at the Marshall Space Flight Research Centre, waiting for the day when it can be lovingly restored and put on display in "her" museum. What I did not know was that she has a second warehouse on the far side of the grounds of the USSRC and this year we were granted the great privilege of a conducted tour by Irene's son Jamie.
At Irene's special request there will be no pictures of the interior of the building, all I can tell is that this building, like the one at Marshall is as impressive as the first, and holds treasures which are of equal testament to the early days of space exploration.
Well that ends my yearly update on the things that have been happening at Space Camp since my last visit.
I have a feeling that next year at this time I will have a lot more to report to you as the new and exciting changes which are currently in the process of being created at Space Camp come on line.
See you then.