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  #41  
Old 11-23-2016, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by yousah
Was just in Huntsville last month and couldn't believe the poor condition of most of the rockets that were displayed outside. I'm sure the funding isn't there for restoration right now, but they need to do some mitigation right now to keep the damage from getting worse. Heck, even some caulk in the joints to keep water out would help.

The entrance fee was quite high considering most of the interior displays were being refurbished too.


Yes, EXACTLY!!!

The first time I visited USSRC in Huntsville was right after I got married back in late 2000, when I was living in Nashville with my new bride. I went down for the day one day while she was at work, because she wasn't terribly interested in it at the time and I was bored at the apartment and wanted to take a "day trip" somewhere.

The displays they had back then were MUCH more interesting and educational. They had a "Mittelwerk" display with the V-2 esconced in a "cave" relief setting with a slave laborer mannequin in period costume "working" on the V-2, and some displays and information about the creation and building of the V-2. There was also a full-scale model "cutaway" of an SRB booster cross-section set into the floor, and lots of other interesting displays-- just crammed full. This was LONG before the "Davidson Center" got built to house the Saturn V-- which is a GOOD thing, but it's a crying shame they didn't move ALL the rockets "inside" before they simply rot away. The Skylab trainer (which was a modified S-IVB stage) has sat outside for decades and has basically rotted away. Many of the rockets outside were showing signs of wear even back then.

We took Keira to see the USSRC a few years ago, and things had DEFINITELY changed for the worse. Gone were the main displays inside the "old building", including the V-2, which had been shoved outside into the 'rocket garden' on it's side on it's trolley. The old "Mittelwerk" display had been ripped out and that whole end of the building turned into a "roving attraction" area-- similar to how "Space Center Houston" (the Johnson Space Center visitor center) does it, with rotation "exhibits" of things like "gross-ology" and other such "fluff" pieces that have little/nothing to do with the exploration of space or the space program, but have lots of "kid friendly" interactive displays and games and other such things to keep those with short attention spans occupied... At least they had a "neat" display in there-- at the time there was a traveling display of "Ships of Star Wars" with various models and props from the movies, including the Millenium Falcon and Princess Leia's "Tantive IV" cruiser from the opening shot of "A New Hope", and various props/costumes, etc. They also had a kind of neat "build a robot" area where you constructed a "mars rover" from various parts and then "programmed" it to navigate a simple course with a few basic obstacles-- which Keira highly enjoyed... Most of the displays however had been "shoved out of the way" to make room for these "traveling exhibits" and were basically an "afterthought". Silly me-- going to a space museum expecting to see stuff about SPACE... LOL

Having gotten back into model rocketry and NASA history, and learning more about the historical space vehicles in their "rocket garden", it IMMEDIATELY became obvious to me there are several GLARING errors in the paint schemes and stuff of the rockets on display. It's not like one has to be a lifelong student of such things to notice them, either. It's a crying shame that the rockets are in SUCH poor condition, and that nobody seems to be willing to part with the money to restore them properly, and while doing so, give them accurate markings and stuff to the extent possible. The Skylab trainer was still out there, shoved in the back corner of the display area, still rotting away slowly but surely. There had been a Titan II (one of the few remaining decomissioned ones, which was there in 2000 but gone last time-- I later heard it had been "traded" to Houston in exchange for something else, and is eventually going to be restored and displayed there.)

At any rate, the entrance fees have gone up REMARKABLY and yet VERY LITTLE seems to be getting done about restoring or preserving the display vehicles, which IMHO is shameful. Folks knock on Houston for the sad state that the Saturn V there was in before its restoration a few years ago, which John Pursley was hired on as a consultant and worked on, as he knew more about the Saturn V than most of the folks presently working at NASA at the time did! He showed us slides and pictures and stuff of his work on the restoration of the JSC Saturn V, and the EXTREMELY poor condition some of the vehicle was in-- literally holes rotted through it in places, insulation rotted away, vermin and varmints making homes in places, paint gone, markings shot, some of the alloys used, particularly lightweight magnesium alloys, simply turned to swiss cheese or outright DUST and crumbling away... It had sat outside in the weather since the late 70's in the Houston heat and humidity, frequent rains, only a few miles from salt water and the salt air blowing in off the Gulf all summer long, plus all the "acid rain" and other pollutants from the nearby Houston Ship Channel and refineries along the Gulf Coast coming down in the rain... It took a LOT of work to restore that vehicle, and to construct even the plain steel building over it that is there presently... (which SUPPOSEDLY the plan is to raise 'enough money' to construct a much more visually appealing and "nice" visitor center around it-- the last few years though, there hasn't even been money to keep the air conditioner on inside the building-- an essential step to control the ever-present humidity and preserve the rocket, even though it IS at least now "inside" and out of the WORST of the weather... Houston's "rocket garden" displays are faring SOMEWHAT better than USSRC's... they recently refurbished and repainted the Apollo Little Joe II at SCH; hopefully they'll do the same to the "Mercury Redstone" there as well.

TBC... OL J R
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  #42  
Old 11-23-2016, 05:31 PM
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Cont'd...

I can see why Houston didn't get a 'real' shuttle when they were retired. We got the next best thing-- the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and the full-scale "model" of the shuttle orbiter which had been in Florida at KSC, which they have since modified and placed atop the SCA in "transport mode" of the shuttle. Of course one of my "pet peeves" is that basically NONE of the NASA displays have any rhyme or reason to them. The KSC "rocket garden" and display is quite well done and very well taken care of, for the most part, and of course they now have their shuttle "flying in space" inside a new building (which was under construction when I was there a few years ago). Of course IMHO it would have been MUCH more impressive for them to have a mock shuttle stack in "launching position" since that's where they were launched from! The KSC Saturn V was also restored and is inside, thankfully, but at a separate visitor center on the other side of the space center from the "main visitor center". Instead, California got one of the shuttles which will be displayed in "launch configuration" on a mock stack out there... IMHO it would have made MUCH more sense to have a display out there of the SCA and shuttle since that's how the shuttle was ferried back to Florida from the early missions and all the orbiters were flown to Florida from the factory in California where they were built on SCA's... Don't even get me started on the "Enterprise" rotting out in the weather on the deck of the aircraft carrier in New York. "Discovery" in the Smithsonian out at Dulles Airport at least makes sense... saw it too a year ago. Houston has a "Mercury Redstone" despite the fact that ALL the Mercury missions were launched AND controlled from the "Mercury Control" center at Cape Canaveral (which has since been demolished due to severe deterioration of the old "bunkhouse" which was swamped with moisture and simply rotted away-- what remains were salvageable are now at the "Astronaut Hall of Fame" just this side of the causeway leading out to KSC). JSC didn't come online until after the first Gemini mission was flown-- and there's NO display of the Gemini Titan currently at JSC, and of course NO Saturn IB, despite the fact that the Saturn IB was a major human space program launch vehicle during the Apollo 7, 3 Skylab flights, and Apollo/Soyuz Test Project... At least a "full scale mockup" would be nice to have, like the one standing outside the entry to USSRC (vertical Saturn V mockup). Houston has a Little Joe II, despite nearly all that taking place at White Sands in New Mexico, with Houston only in a supporting role.

Oh well... Just something that bugs me. At least they've now moved the last Saturn V S-IC stage from where it was rotting just inside the gate at Michoud in New Orleans up to the new "visitor center" they've constructed on I-10 between New Orleans and Gulfport, which is the visitor center for the Stennis Space Center; they've moved the visitor center outside the gates and compound of SSC to a "roadside park" just off I-10. At least you can still ride a bus thru SSC to see the test stands where they test fired all the S-IC stages, shuttle engines, etc... although it no longer stops inside the grounds of SSC... The security at Stennis is just crazy... I was there last year and it's not much better now that everything is "outside". It was bad enough when I was there about five years ago, and the visitor center was still "inside" the grounds at the old main building. When I was there in the late 90's, my then-girlfriend and I drove in from her home on the Picayune, Mississippi side, and basically had the run of the place, at least the visitor center and stuff, just showed your driver's license at the gate. Now it's like a fortress...

Anyway, just thought I'd pass that along... At least the State of Alabama is sprucing up the Saturn IB at the roadside park...

Later! OL J R
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  #43  
Old 11-23-2016, 05:52 PM
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THE biggest problem with the NASA Visitor Centers is, they're no longer run by NASA... they're run by some amusement park company operator who runs them as "for profit" businesses on "NASA's behalf".

As such, they basically are doing just whatever is going to have the highest bang/buck return for them, IMHO. They're not really interested in "conserving" the historical artifacts like rockets and vehicles and stuff and presenting the most historically accurate and inspiring displays of the achievements of NASA and the space program-- they've turned it into a sort of space-related "Chucky Cheese" type thing with fun-n-games and the actual space program artifacts and history are an "afterthought". Take the "Space Center Houston" for example.

When I was a kid in the 70's, we went to the REAL "Lyndon Baines Johnson Space Center Visitor Center" back when it was in (IIRC) Building 1 inside the JSC grounds... basically you drove in past the guard shack past the Saturn V and parked in the main parking lot near the entrance. The displays inside were interesting and historical-- the old F-1 and H-1 and J-2 engines sat outside the visitor center entrance, and inside were a lot of historical artifacts, models, helmets to try on, lots of cool stuff... It's kind of hard to remember it all now since that was 40 years ago...

Fast forward to now. "Space Center Houston" opened in the late 80's/early 90's, just off the JSC grounds outside the main entrance. There's one "starship gallery" museum part of SCH, (stupid name for the museum part IMHO) with Faith 7, Gordo's Mercury capsule, a mock-up of Explorer 1, our first satellite, a Gemini capsule, LM trainer, a fiberglass model of the Saturn V hanging from the roof, some "wall displays" of various reprinted poster-boards of newspapers and stuff, with some gloves and other "space program bits-n-pieces, the Apollo 17 CM, and a display of the 'surface of the Moon' with rocks and instruments, a rover, and a couple lunar surface suits presumably with mannequins inside. There's some of the stuff from the old "lunar receiving lab" where they experimented on the lunar rock and dust samples as they came back, which then leads to the Skylab mock-up trainer and a mini-shuttle display, including a launch stack and aerodynamic test model of the orbiter, along with a passing mention in displays of the Skylab program, including a burned-up piece of the original Skylab retrieved from the Outback of Australia, and some food and shoes and trinkets and a couple models, including a VERY brief description of the Apollo Soyuz Test Project. There's a full-scale mock-up of the shuttle flight deck across the way, a LM hanging from the ceiling outside the "starship gallery" and an SSME sitting beside the shuttle mockup. There's some suits in tube displays between that and the ISS model and module mockup display, and the rest of the center is given over to the "traveling displays" which are front and center and usually have little/NOTHING to do with space... from "gross-ology" to NASCAR and other such fluff, except it has all kinds of interactive hoo-hoos to keep the kiddo's busy so they don't have to "learn anything". The main gift shop takes up the other corner and the mini-gift shop is between the commissary and the sign-up for the tram tour which is like getting approval to go into a missile base... and of course the obligatory "noise area" where you go experience a "real" shuttle launch thanks to reverbing speakers overcranked to make tons of noise to a tape of the sounds of a shuttle launch... which leads into an anteroom where some "PR guest of the day" actual NASA employee (usually a doctor or technician) gives a "briefing" of what NASA's up to at the present time.

I mean, it's good... but it could be SO much better! Funny me, thinking a space program museum should be about, oh, I dunno... the SPACE PROGRAM?? Oh, and lest I forget, there's the HUGE 'Chucky Cheese' area with the ball pit, "rover driving", weightlifting on the various planets, etc kiddie play area which takes up the entire corner of the entry area...

OH well... Just goes to prove--- EVERYTHING is for sale... NASA would rather "farm it out to somebody else" than run their own visitor centers...

Later! OL J R: )
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  #44  
Old 11-25-2016, 06:02 PM
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I noticed the incorrect paint schemes on several of the rockets back in the 70s/80s timeframe. Growing up, I lived two miles from the Space and Rocket Center. I will agree with you that most of the outdoor rockets should have been placed indoors because of the heat and humidity that is normal in northern Alabama.
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  #45  
Old 11-25-2016, 08:18 PM
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The visitor's center at Cape Canaveral has a dumbed-down tourist front end (with the notable exception of the Rocket Garden), but once you get on the bus to the launch pads and the Saturn V display, things get a lot more serious.
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  #46  
Old 11-25-2016, 09:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stefanj
The visitor's center at Cape Canaveral has a dumbed-down tourist front end (with the notable exception of the Rocket Garden), but once you get on the bus to the launch pads and the Saturn V display, things get a lot more serious.

My favorite part of my KSC visit was driving my own vehicle to the Air Force Space and Missile Museum and LC 5/6 and 26 at Port Canaveral and basically being allowed to to be hands on at the pads and blockhouse. I enjoyed listening to the retired employee guides too. A Delta III (that was destroyed soon after launch) was sitting on pad 17B and was easily visible when I was walking around the area. I had already done a quick visit on the "Cape Canvaveral: Then and Now Tour" bus tour but the stop was so short I knew I had to go back.

Launch Complex 34 wasn't a part of the tour when I went in 1998. I wanted to see it. I don't recall stopping at the Mercury Atlas or Gemini Titan pads either. In fact, we drove past just about everything without stopping except at the museum. I was robbed!
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  #47  
Old 11-27-2016, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stefanj
The visitor's center at Cape Canaveral has a dumbed-down tourist front end (with the notable exception of the Rocket Garden), but once you get on the bus to the launch pads and the Saturn V display, things get a lot more serious.


Agree with you there... I took Keira through the "robotic gallery" display at KSC Visitor's Center, looking forward to teaching her the proud history of robotic exploration, from the early Mariners, Rangers, and Lunar Surveyors to the Pioneers, Voyagers, and Mars Rovers... Instead it was full of "make believe" stuff with Tom Servo than Sojourner or Opportunity... Which I found to be IMMENSELY disappointing. There is enough of a REAL, PROUD history of NASA unmanned robotic exploration without having to resort to cheap, fake fluff...

At any rate, it's the sort of thing I've come to expect from the NASA Visitor Centers... sadly enough...

Later! OL J R
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  #48  
Old 11-27-2016, 01:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbzep
My favorite part of my KSC visit was driving my own vehicle to the Air Force Space and Missile Museum and LC 5/6 and 26 at Port Canaveral and basically being allowed to to be hands on at the pads and blockhouse. I enjoyed listening to the retired employee guides too. A Delta III (that was destroyed soon after launch) was sitting on pad 17B and was easily visible when I was walking around the area. I had already done a quick visit on the "Cape Canvaveral: Then and Now Tour" bus tour but the stop was so short I knew I had to go back.

Launch Complex 34 wasn't a part of the tour when I went in 1998. I wanted to see it. I don't recall stopping at the Mercury Atlas or Gemini Titan pads either. In fact, we drove past just about everything without stopping except at the museum. I was robbed!


Yes, for some reason they simply won't allow the buses to go down to the Atlas or Gemini Titan pads... Probably because they're in terrible disrepair and they're ashamed that, as well they should be. The closest you get is the 'street light' they had installed for one of the flight directors that couldn't find the turn out there in the dark.... and of course the stainless steel Mercury 7 display, and the "sign boards" at the Gemini Titan Complex 34.

Later! OL J R
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