Sunday, May 25, 2008

Museum of Flight

We headed up to the Museum of Flight yesterday. While I've been there before (about 13 years ago), my family had not. We chose yesterday for several reasons: the Cascadian Warbirds were going to be there, a restored B-17 Bomber was going to be there, and we wanted to see their space exhibit to go along with the astronomy unit study we are finishing up

We arrived early hoping the arrival of the Cascadian Warbirds would be interesting. They were arriving at 9am and would be landing at Boeing Field. This turned out to be a bad choice for us for several reasons. The Warbirds came in one at a time with fairly long intervals in between, making it rather boring for the kids. In addition to that, it was sunny and a bit too warm. We thought to go into the museum rather than wait out the rest of the planes but found out it didn't open until 10am so we were stuck waiting nearly an hour for the museum to open.

Once we were finally able to enter the museum, it was much more interesting. We headed straight for the space exhibit where we found both actual artifacts and mock-ups.

This cosmonaut is sporting a suit similar to the one Yuri Gagarin wore on his trip to space as the first man in space. This rare suit is one of nine used by the Vostok cosmonauts; and one of two in the U.S. The model sits in an ejection seat which was made from parts of seven ejection seats manufactured in 1960. According to the sign, the Russian cosmonauts parachuted down to land unlike their American counterparts who land in the water. The orange color of the suit was to assist in locating the cosmonaut and came with an inflatable rubber collar to keep their heads above water should they land in water.

This giant, rusty ball is an actual satellite that went up into space. It is a Resurs-500 F-1 capsule called the Zvezda Kolumba and was launched into space in 1992. Also in this part of the exhibit was a mock up of Sputnik and many other exhibits about anything from x-planes to the space shuttle.

Near the back of this exhibit area, we found some of old computer terminals from Mission Control. I believe I read a sign that said these were actual computers terminals from long ago.

Then we found a second space exhibit area where we saw this: a model of an Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle from 1971. It allowed the astronauts to explore up to six miles away from their landing site. Six miles was determined to be the maximum distance they could go and still have enough life-support to hike it back to the landing site should the rover fail. Here, Scott and Josh, are checking it out.

Another cool find in this room were simulators. Here are photos of Mika, Sammy, and Josh trying to land the space shuttle at Kennedy Space Center. All three crashed landed every attempt. Scott crashed the lunar module on another simulator.

We also saw this model of Sojourner. According to the nearby sign, operating this remote control vehicle took lots of patience. Instructions from Earth took 11 minutes to reach it and then it only moved two feet per minute.

Other interesting things in this part of the exhibit were an actual moon rock, a model of the Apollo Soyuz capsule with an open door and dummy inside (it was a TIGHT fit), an exhibit showing both American and Russian space food, and a mock up of a space station lab that you could walk through. Of course, there were many more things in there, as well.

The museum has a kids zone with more interactive, hands on activities. In the zone, we found two hanglider simulators, a couple of tiny (but real) airplanes to sit in, and activities teaching the kids about roll, pitch, and yaw. Outside the zone, we found a family craft area where we made these space station models.

On our way out of the kids zone, we found this photo opportunity. Here's Mika as an astronaut on a space walk. I wonder if she's looking at an oncoming meteorite or something. She looks awfully worried, doesn't she.

Sammy thought space walking was pretty cool too.

After the space exhibit, we looked around the Great Gallery, a six story monstrosity of a room. It houses 39 full-size historical planes, including a Blue Angel and the M-21 Blackbird (that's the big one in the center of the photo). To the bottom right of the photo, you'll see a light blue section; that's an exhibit showing historical flight attendant uniforms. Some of the uniforms were quite colorful. Another interesting part of this room was the front portion of an United Airlines plane (737,747?) that you could walk in. You could sit in the seats and view a video or view the cockpit through Plexiglas.

The Great Gallery also housed these cockpits that you could sit in. Sammy and Josh are sitting in a Northrop F/A-18L Hornet mock-up. Mika is in a Blackbird's nose section which was recovered from a take-off crash in 1968.

The museum also gives kids the opportunity to learn about air traffic control in this control tower mock-up overlooking Boeing Field's landing strips. The hallway leading up to the control tour is full of stations with written information and phones you can listen to. In the control tour, you find more information stations. Sammy spent his time yelling at the imaginary person on the other end of the phone while the parents chuckled. After a helicopter flew by, we all heard tell his phone contact, "I just saw a helicopter fly by and its only suppose to be planes!"

After the control tower experience, we headed across the street to the airpark. There we walked through the first Air Force One place which carried Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. Everything was protected by Plexiglas but we got a kick out of seeing Kennedy's pipe stand, the very old "state of the art" communications equipment, and the very old microwave oven. After that, we walked through the Concord that you see behind Scott and Josh. It's a pretty cool, sleek looking plane.

There was so much to see yet we still didn't get to two whole exhibit areas. One was the Stories of Courage exhibit about WWI and WWII and the Red Barn which houses exhibits on Boeing's beginnings.

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