Get Inside the Replica That Trained Every Shuttle Astronaut, WIRED

Get Inside the Replica That Trained Every Shuttle Astronaut


Get Inside the Replica That Trained Every Shuttle Astronaut

It’s not named Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavor or Enterprise. But the Full Fuselage Trainer at the Museum of Flight in Seattle is the only full-size artifact of the space shuttle program that visitors can actually go inside and follow in the footsteps of every shuttle astronaut. There will even be limited access to tour the flight deck, complete with its control sticks, countless switches and pilot seats. The well-worn trainer was used by all of the crews who flew aboard the shuttle orbiters since the first flight back in 1981.

Construction started on the wooden structure of the FFT back in 1974, and it remained in Houston as a training device until the final mission last year. It’s 122 feet long, and the tail stands 48 feet above the floor. There’s a replica of the payload bay and the pressurized crew compartments, including the mid-deck, where mission specialists would sit during the flight to and from space, as well as the flight deck. The cargo bay along with a display area in the tail are open to all visitors.

“We’ll have special programs for people to go through the crew compartments, mostly linked to education programs,” said museum spokesman Mike Bush.

Unlike the easy access and open space of the cargo bay, to enter the crew compartments visitors have to duck and squeeze through a relatively small circular hatch where the first thing you’ll pass on your way in is the orbiter toilet. Access to the flight deck above the entrance on the mid-deck is up a short vertical ladder. Shuttle astronauts also used windows at the top of the flight deck for emergency egress training, though visitors won’t be rappelling down the side of the FFT.

For those who can’t get access to the crew compartments, but are curious about the details of space living, another shuttle toilet will be on display next to a Soyuz version in an adjacent display. Other displays in the gallery include various shuttle history along with the actual Soyuz capsule Museum of Flight patron Charles Simonyi flew in on one of his two flights to the International Space Station. There are also interactive, large touchscreens where visitors can learn all about the FFT complete with panoramic pictures of the flight deck and mid-deck areas. There is also a cockpit simulator where visitors can try out their skills trying to land an orbiter.

Unlike the space-going orbiters and the flight test glider Enterprise, the FFT flew only one time in its illustrious history. In several pieces, the trainer was flown from its former home in Houston to its new home at the Museum of Flight in Seattle aboard NASA’s Super Guppy cargo plane.

The trainer fills the main floor of the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight. Because visitors can actually get into the FFT, the museum is confident it will be a much better educational tool than the actual orbiters, which will only be viewable from outside.

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