The crew of NASA's final shuttle flight, STS-135, pilot Doug Hurley, commander Chris Ferguson and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandra Magnus, pictured left to right, stand before the Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility ad the Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit/NASA
Ownership of NASA's Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer, which for more than 30 years accustomed shuttle crews to the lay out of the flight deck and payload bay of the winged orbiters, was formally transferred from the Johnson Space Center in Houston to the Seattle Museum of Flight on Thursday under the terms of a Space Act Agreement.
The 122 foot long trainer, assembled largely from plywood molded around an aluminum aircraft structure, is being separated into four large segments that will be flown from Houston's Ellington Field to Boeing Field in Seattle aboard NASA's Supper Guppy. The distinctive transport was aquired by the space agency to deliver components of the International Space Station to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for launching.NASA's Super Guppy transport. Photo Credit/NASA
The FFT is scheduled to go on public display in mid-June in the museum's new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, named for the former Microsoft software executive, Soyuz space tourist and primary benefactor. The wingless trainer will join mockups of SpaceShipOne, the Hubble Space Telecope and the James Webb Space Telescope in the gallery.
Seattle's Museum of Flight was among the unsuccessful bidders for one of NASA's flown shuttle orbiters. As the fleet neared retirement after 135 missions in July, Discovery, Endeavour, Atlantis and the flight test vehicle Enterprise were assigned to museums and display venues in the Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Cape Canaveral, Fla., and New York City areas.
However, Museum of Flight president Douglas King said the Seattle region, which shares a rich aerospace heritage with the Boeing Co., considers the trainer a significant historical artifact that will allow the venue to build on a 500,000 visitor base and expand public outreach activities.
"The FFT is just changing its mission," said King "It was used to train everyone who has gone to space aboard the shuttle. Now, we will use it to to tell the public what it accomplished in the last 30 years and maybe more importantly what comes next."
The segmented trainer, including its 46-foot high vertical stablizer and a mockup of the Canadarm, will be packed for shipping in Johnson's Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility, its home since 1979. The pieces will be transported at night under police escort over public roadways on double drop tractor trailers to Ellington.
Astronaut Greg C. Johnson, a Seattle native, will lead a series of five to six Super Guppy flights that transport the trainer and its support structure to Boeing Field, beginning about May 1. The final approach for each flight is likely to include a downtown fly over by the Super Guppy and a fly around of the Space Needle, Johnson said.
Under the terms of the Space Act Agreement, the Museum of Flight will underwrite the expense of packaging and transporting the trainer.