Shuttle Carrier 747 to be Displayed in Palmdale

Space shuttle Atlantis being mated to shuttle carrier aircraft at NASA Dryden. (Credit: NASA)
Space shuttle Atlantis being mated to shuttle carrier aircraft at NASA Dryden. (Credit: NASA)

One of the modified 747 aircraft used to transport space shuttles will be going on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale, Calif., in about a month.

NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center Director David McBride revealed the plan during a press event on Tuesday to mark the dismantling of the space shuttle mate-demate device, which was used to mount the orbiters on their carrier aircraft after they landed at Edwards Air Force Base.

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Lancaster Shop Shows Antelope Valley’s Aviation and Space Past, Present

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American Data Plates gift shop in Lancaster, Calif. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

California’s Antelope Valley is probably the home of more aviation and space firsts than any place else in the world. Within this massive stretch of desert, the sound barrier was broken, space shuttles were built and tested, Voyager took off and landed for its solo around the world trip, and the first privately-funded manned space vehicle soared above the Karman line.

Monuments and tributes to this glorious past and high-tech present can be found scattered all over the valley from suburban Palmdale in the south to the dusty desert outside Randsburg up north. The Antelope Valley’s blue skies are filled with advanced supersonic jets that boom and zoom across the horizon just like Chuck Yeager first did nearly 70 years ago.

I found a very cool place in Lancaster the other day that encompasses the Antelope Valley’s past and present. American Data Plates, which makes products for aircraft and space vehicles, has a gift shop with interesting aviation and space memorabilia and collectibles.

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Walter Cunningham on the Gap

Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham has added his voice to a growing chorus of people who want to extend space shuttle missions beyond 2010 and to provide NASA with billions in additional funding to move up the launch date of its successor.

“What we really need is a fix for the five-year hiatus, not a Band-Aid,” Cunningham writes in Launch Magazine. “That means both extending the life of the shuttle and moving the launch date for Orion forward. NASA needs a $2 billion appropriation to extend the life of the shuttle for 18 to 24 months, and an additional $2 billion to move the first flight of Orion closer by 18 to 24 months.”

Cunningham argues that a long gap between flights would erode American leadership in space, devastate the space workforce and astronaut corps, leave the United State dependent upon an increasingly authoritarian Russia, and place the fate of the International Space Station in the hands of other nations. He also called the NASA COTS program, which is designed to fund private human spacecraft alternatives, “a long shot at best” that will be prone to delays.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin is staunchly opposed to extending the life of the aging shuttles on safety and cost grounds. The shuttle’s retirement will free up billions of dollars needed to get Orion and its Ares boosters flying, the administrator says.