When the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s (NASA) 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) takes off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this week to bring the Space Shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, two models from the National Model Aviation Museum are going along for the ride. The museum loaned the Radio Control models of the 747 and Space Shuttle to NASA for the SCA’s final mission. These models were once used to test transporting the shuttle and in-flight launch capabilities.
While sending the models across the country and back does impact the long term preservation of the models, the risks were outweighed by the historical significance of the action. These models, built by John Kiker and Owen Morris in 1975 and 1976, were part of the origins of the Space Shuttle program. Sending the models along for the last flight of the SCA means they are also part of the Space Shuttle program’s ending. It is important to represent and document that closure, to tell the full story. And, as Gary Ash, Chief, Aircraft Maintenance and Quality Assurance Branch, Aircraft Operations Division Johnson Space Center notes, carrying the models on the flight would be “both a tribute to him [John Kiker] as well as an educational tool to illustrate the value that models have in demonstrating innovative concepts.”
The models are installed in the cabin of the SCA where they are visible to the VIPs and media who tour the SCA at each stop along the route. At the end of the trip they will be returned to the National Model Aviation Museum.
This blog entry will be updated with pictures and information as it becomes available.
9/21/2012: The Endeavour has landed! According to NASA’s website, the SCA and Endeavour landed at 12:51 PCT at LAX. Here’s some links to video footage and photographs of the cross-country flight:
The models were successfully returned to the museum on 10/17/2012. Their return was celebrated with a Landing Party on November 17, 2012.