Date: July 6, 2010

Title: What Goes Up, Must Come Down (Most Times)!


Podcaster: Patrick McQuillan

Organization: Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) –

Description: Mercury…Gemini…Apollo…these names bring to mind memories of the early days of the US space program with the high point being the landing of the first humans on the surface of the Moon. Although these missions are part of the seemingly distant past, you can recapture a bit of the storied history connected with these names. Many of the spacecraft used in these historic programs are on display in museums around the country. In this Podcast we will give you the inside scoop on where to go to get up close and personal with these historic artifacts. I guarantee it will be much closer than a trip to the Moon.

Bio: Patrick McQuillan earned a B.S. degree in Physics from the College of William and Mary. His senior research project involved determining the period of variable stars, most notably Alpha Auriga. In the twenty plus years since then, he has explained astronomy to the general public as a Planetarium Director, the Education Manager for Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a NASA Solar System Ambassador, and currently explains Earth Science as the Education and Outreach Specialist for IRIS. You can view current earthquake activity using the Seismic Monitor located on the IRIS website.

Today’s sponsor: “Between the Hayabusa homecoming from Itokawa and the Rosetta flyby of asteroid Lutetia, 13 June until 10 July 2010, this episode of ‘365 Days of Astronomy’ is sponsored anonymously and dedicated to the memory of Annie Cameron, designer of the Tryphena Sun Wheel, Great Barrier Island, New Zealand, a project that remains to be started.”


Hello, I’m Patrick McQuillan, Education and Outreach Specialist with IRIS, the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, a NASA Solar System Ambassador and a former Planetarium Director. Welcome to the July 6th edition of the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcasts.

The Space Shuttle, the United States’ only method of sending humans to space, will soon fly its last mission. The future of American astronauts is in question. The space program’s past, however, can be relived. Mercury…Gemini…Apollo. These names evoke the high point of America Space flight. Many of the actual vehicles that undertook these missions are on display across the country.

So, while enjoying your Summer vacation, why not take a trip to experience history first hand. I guarantee that the journey will be much shorter than a trip to the Moon.

Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States. It ran from 1959 through 1963 with the goal of putting a human in orbit around the Earth. The Mercury-Atlas 6 flight on February 20, 1962, was the first Mercury flight to achieve this goal carrying John Glen into orbit. The Mercury program included 20 unmanned launches followed by six flights with astronaut pilots.

Mercury-Atlas 6, also known as Friendship 7, is on display in Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. in the Milestones of Flight gallery.

The first manned Mercury capsule to reach space was Freedom 7 piloted by (or perhaps riding as luggage, depending on your viewpoint) Alan Shepard. Freedom 7 is now on display in the lobby of the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD. It was placed there after Shepard’s death in 1998.

The second manned Mercury capsule to reach space was Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7. Liberty Bell 7 sank after landing due to the premature blowing of the hatch. It sat on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean until it was found and recovered in June 1999. Then it was sent to Kansas.

Why Kansas? The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas is world renown for their space artifact restoration facilities. They can repair waterlogged spacecraft. They can also produce highly accurate reproductions of spacecraft. If you enjoyed the 1995 movie Apollo 13, the Cosmosphere built the movie’s spacecraft models and sets.

The Cosmophere’s 105,000 square foot museum now houses the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside of Moscow, the second largest collection of space artifacts in the world (second only to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum) and is one of only three museums to display spacecraft from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.

The remaining Mercury spacecraft can be found in the following locations. Aurora 7, piloted by Scott Carpenter, is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. Sigma 7, piloted by Wally Schirra, can be found at the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida. The Astronaut Hall of Fame is located just outside the Kennedy Space Center which has full scale versions of US space program rockets (such as Mercury and Gemini) as well as a full size model of the space shuttle. And Faith 7, piloted by Gordon Cooper, is on display at Space Center Houston at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Project Gemini was the second human spaceflight program of NASA. Project Gemini operated between Projects Mercury and Apollo, with 10 manned flights occurring in 1965 and 1966. Its objective was to develop techniques for advanced space travel, notably those necessary for Project Apollo, whose objective was to land humans on the Moon. Gemini missions included the first American spacewalks, and new orbital maneuvers including rendezvous and docking.

Gemini spacecraft are spread across the country. The Gemini 3 spacecraft, the Molly Brown piloted by Gus Grissom and John Young, is on display within the Grissom Memorial of Spring Mill State Park, two miles east of Grissom’s hometown of Mitchell, Indiana.

Appropriately, Washington D.C. offers two opportunities to view Gemini spacecraft. Gemini IV, piloted by James McDivitt and Edward White, can be seen at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington D.C. Gemini VII, piloted by Frank Borman and James Lowell, can be found at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Air and Space Museum’s annex, located just outside D.C. near Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.

Gemini V is located at Space Center Houston, Houston, Texas; Gemini VI is at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Gemini VIII is at the Ohio Historical Society’s Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Columbus, Ohio; Gemini IX is at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Gemini X is on display at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas; Gemini XI is at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California; and Gemini XII is at the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

The Apollo program was the American space program which landed the first humans on Earth’s Moon. The Apollo program ran from 1961 until 1975, and was the NASA’s third human spaceflight program. Apollo used Apollo spacecraft and Saturn launch vehicles, which were later used for the Skylab program and the joint American-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. These subsequent programs are thus often considered part of the Apollo program.

Apollo’s goal was accomplished during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969 when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six Apollo spaceflights, 12 men walked on the Moon.

The Apollo 11 Command Module (Columbia) is displayed prominently in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. You can even touch a real Moon rock brought back by the Apollo astronauts.
The rest of the Apollo Command Modules are spread out around the world. Apollo 7 is at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas; Apollo 8 is at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois; and Apollo 9 (Gumdrop) is at the San Diego Air and Space Museum in San Diego, California.

The Apollo 10 Command Module (Charlie Brown) is the only spacecraft on our list that is not in the United States. It is on loan to the Science Museum in London, England.

Apollo 12 (Yankee Clipper) is at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia; Apollo 13 (Odyssey) is on display at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas; Apollo 14 (Kitty Hawk) is at the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida; Apollo 15 (Endeavour) is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio; Apollo 16 (Casper) is at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama; and Apollo 17 (America) can be found at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas.

You might think that it is impossible to visit an Apollo Lunar Module, since the descent stage remains on the Moon and the ascent stage is discarded (most crashed back onto the Moon’s surface, except Apollo 13’s which burned up in Earth’s atmosophere). And you are mostly correct. It is not possible to visit an Apollo Lunar Module that actually flew in space.

You can visit the three Lunar Modules that were not used. The first is on display around the corner from the Apollo 11 Command Module (and just outside the entrance to the McDonald’s) at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. The second can be found at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The third, which would have been used on the cancelled Apollo 18 mission, on display at The Cradle of Aviation Museum at Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York.

Full scale Saturn V rockets are on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

As the Space Shuttle program winds down and becomes part of American history, NASA has plans to transfer the three flown-in-space shuttles to US museums. Until that time, you can view one full scale space shuttle at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just outside Washington D.C. The space shuttle Enterprise is on display. This shuttle never flew into space. It was used as the test body for atmospheric flight and landing tests.

Although if you want to see Enterprise you better hurry. Most likely Enterprise will be replaced with Discovery, Endeavour or Atlantis after their retirement. Then Enterprise will be free to go, perhaps, to a museum near you.
You can view a nice summary of the location information I have shared on the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s website.

The exact link is:

That page has links to each of the museums that hosts one of the previously mentioned spacecraft.
So have fun traveling this Summer. Hopefully you can check a few of America’s historical icons off your must see list.

If you happen to be in Washington D.C., you might even see me catching another look at the Apollo Lunar Module. Right after I get a Big Mac and fries. Tracking down spacecraft can really work up an appetite!

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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