Our second and final stop on our Johnson Space Center tour was the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. This building is HUGE. It houses 1:1 mockups of not only the shuttle (plus a couple partial shuttles) and rovers, but modules of the space station as well. It has all sorts of neat toys and features.
As I mentioned in the last post, we were supposed to get Commander Chris Ferguson as our guide for this. Coincidentally, this entire tour opportunity came together because the assistant to the dean of the Rutgers School of Engineering knows Chris personally from her years working at Drexel University, of which he is a graduate — and of which I too am a graduate! Small world.
Anyway, we didn’t end up with Chris, because there was a Rutgers graduate who really wanted to give us the tour — Mario Runco, who has three spaceflights under his belt (he told us he stopped at three safe missions because he figured his luck would eventually run out). Mario was enthusiastic and entertaining, and I could tell he would have spent all evening telling us about various things. He seemed very disappointed when our chief handler told him we had to go, and shook everyone’s hand as we filed out to the bus.
Here, he is showing us the somewhat limited dance moves that astronauts are able to do while encumbered by their space suits:
Not really. I don’t remember what that gesture was all about, but those are the mockups for the Japanese space station module and the logistics module behind him. Here’s another view from the other side, plus a few other modules:
(The woman in navy took those photos of me in the Apollo room, and here she is making sure we don’t stow away in a module to live out our astronaut fantasies after everyone goes home. At the reception I sat at a table with that guy to the right and his wife. They were hilarious and somewhat odd, though probably no odder than anyone else there, now that I think about it.)
There is a pretty big ISS module hanging on the wall to help orient visitors to what they’re seeing on the floor. Notice the size of the wall windows to get a sense of scale:
Mario pointed out that the folks who made that starry backdrop took a little artistic liberty — the way the model is positioned, an accurate backdrop would show Earth. Oh well. Maybe they just wanted some space!
Last photo, a shuttle mockup that the astronauts train on in order to learn where all of the cargo is stowed before they launch. This one is going to Seattle when the shuttle program is dismantled: