Local fans of all things space will soon get up close and personal to a pivotal training tool for NASA astronauts.
The Lone Star Flight Museum is the new home for NASA’s Space Shuttle Motion Base Simulator. The simulator, a crucial part of astronaut training for 35 years, will transform to an interactive exhibit at the museum.
Fans are invited to watch the simulator, which will leave its current location at Johnson Space Center’s Hangar 276, arrive at the museum facilities and slowly taxi down Ellington Airport taxiway Kilo on Tuesday, April 12 . Those interested should arrive around 10:30 am to greet the simulator before it moves to its permanent location at the museum’s Heritage Hangar.
Following the transport and arrival, the public is invited to view the new simulator exhibit for free from 4 pm to 6 pm. The experience includes the simulator assembly and related artifacts including the trainer’s console and crew procedures, as well as sound and video from the last simulator run of the STS-135 crew in July 2011, according to a press release.
Why is the simulator significant? This Motion Base Simulator was constructed in 1976 to support the Approach and Landing Tests using the Space Shuttle Enterprise and also modified to support future space shuttle missions, per NASA. In January 1979, it was activated to support flight crew training for the STS-1 mission.
Boasting a full-scale replica of the forward flight deck of a space shuttle orbiter, the simulator’s windows projected simulated views during various phases of the flight while motion systems simulated space shuttle movements.
A fixture at Johnson’s Jake Garn Simulation and Training Facility, the simulator prepared astronauts for flights for decades. Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, retired NASA astronaut, aerospace engineering professor at Texas A&M University, and flight museum board member, worked with a team of volunteers to restore the simulator, spending some 5,000 restoration hours doing so, NASA notes.
Notably for Space City fans, NASA’s Johnson Space Center is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.