Boeing Shuttle Carrier Aircraft to move to Houston for permanent exhibit

An announcement from Boeing:

Retired NASA 905 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft prepares for
move to its permanent home  

Boeing sponsors relocation of historic aircraft as part of a
new six-story attraction and educational experience at Space Center Houston

HOUSTON – Executives from The Boeing Company and Space Center Houston, the official visitor’s center for NASA-Johnson Space Center, recently announced plans to permanently relocate NASA 905, a retired Boeing 747 airplane known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). The SCA will be featured in a one-of-a-kind, $12 million, six-story educational attraction currently under development. As part of the multi-year project, Boeing is sponsoring the necessary costs to disassemble and reassemble the huge 747 SCA to Space Center Houston.

NASA-JSC officially transferred ownership of the aircraft to Space Center Houston in May. Boeing is now analyzing the scope of work and recourses needed to complete disassembly and reassembly, including special tooling requirements, of this massive airplane, which is 231 feet long, 63 feet tall and has a wingspan of 195 feet. After disassembly, the airplane will be transported in sections via trailers from Ellington Airport to Space Center Houston and reassembled on-site.

“Boeing was involved in every stage of the Space Shuttle program, which encompassed the ferried flights of NASA’s Orbiters across America for more than 35 years,” said John Elbon, Boeing vice president and general manager of space exploration. “Now, we have an opportunity to extend that contribution, while upholding one of our strongest corporate commitments – to inspire the next-generation workforce through dynamic STEM initiatives. We are proud the SCA will have its new home at Space Center Houston, adjacent the Johnson Space Center, home of America’s human spaceflight program.”

Once transport and reassembly of the SCA is complete, the Orbiter replica, which arrived at Space Center Houston via barge in June 2012, will be mounted on top of the SCA in the actual transport configuration. Space Center Houston plans to construct a tower structure, including an elevator, to provide public, walk-through access to the interiors of the SCA and Orbiter.

“Each year, more than 750,000 visitors from around the world come to Space Center Houston to learn about America’s space program through our multitude of exhibits and theatres,” said Richard Allen, president and CEO of Space Center Houston. “Now, thanks to Boeing’s generous contribution, we will be able to produce an unparalleled attraction that will uniquely showcase the wonders of NASA’s innovation and technology. Once it is complete, the 747 will become a vehicle of inspiration, lending her wings to the dreams of imaginative students. The bulkheads of the 747 will house teaching facilities, immersive experiences, and rare artifacts that will thrill students to the technical achievements of this historic program.”

The Shuttle Transport attraction is slated to open in 2015 and will expand Space Center Houston’s current educational programs, which aim to encourage students to consider careers in math and science. The new attraction will serve as a one-of-a-kind classroom that will bring all aspects of STEM education to life.

“Johnson is excited to see the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft remain in Houston on permanent display for all to see,” said Dr. Ellen Ochoa, director of NASA-JSC. “The original orbiter transport is an historic icon of the space shuttle era. It truly will be an amazing attraction.”

About the SCA

Built in 1970 and acquired by NASA from American Airlines in 1974, the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft flew in wake vortex research studies by NASA’s Flight Research Center, now the Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before being modified by Boeing for its new role as an SCA. It carried the prototype shuttle Enterprise aloft in 1977 and launched it five times during the space shuttle Approach and Landing Tests at NASA Dryden.

Renamed NASA 905, the SCA then underwent further modifications for the ferry flight role it would have over more than three decades. Reaching a speed of Mach 0.6 (or 457 mph), it flew 70 of the 87 ferry flights during the shuttle program’s operational phase, including 46 of the 54 post-mission ferry flights from NASA Dryden to the Kennedy Space Center.

NASA 905’s last service for the Space Shuttle Program was ferrying the Enterprise and the operational shuttles, Discovery and Endeavour, to their retirement homes in New York, Dulles Airport near Washington D.C. and Los Angeles respectively in 2012. It then departed NASA Dryden for the last time on Oct. 24, 2012, flying to Ellington Field in Houston to await its final retirement and disposition. It last flew when it was taken aloft on a 90-minute pilot proficiency flight in December 2012.

About The Boeing Company

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $33 billion business with 59,000 employees worldwide.

About Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston is the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) education foundation with award-winning educational programs designed to inspire and encourage students to consider a career in math, science, engineering or technology. Space Center Houston features a multitude of permanent exhibits, attractions and theatres and is open every day with the exception of Christmas Day. Space Center Houston is located at 1601 NASA Parkway; Houston, TX 77058. Please visit

Space colonies will be far more than havens for the rich

I’ve long argued that large self-contained in-space colonies, like that popularized by the late Gerard K. O’Neill, offer marvelous settings on which to base science fiction stories. (See my essay in the Solar Sci-Fi section.) New cultures would arise and multiply within such island worlds and offer scenarios for stories just as rich and diverse as any of those based on the intra-galactic motif – yet the action would be within our solar system and obey known physics, e.g. no need for faster-than-light travel. If we get off our collective duff, such stories could even play out in reality in the next few decades.

It’s thus rather disappointing that the first movie to bring a lot of public attention to such a colony portrays it as nothing more than the ultimate gated community for the ultra-rich. Haven’t seen Elysium yet, but from all accounts it takes the sophomoric and narrow-minded “space travel is for the rich today and so always will be” theme and runs it into the ground – from orbit. Innumerable technologies and activities that were once only for the rich  (e.g. air travel, Caribbean cruises, spas and resorts, computers, big flat screen TVs, etc) eventually became broadly available and affordable for the middle class. The same will happen with space travel and space habitats.

I hope more enlightened writers and moviemakers will ignore the misleading negativity of this film and instead be inspired by the in-space colony concept and begin to fulfill its vast story-making potential. Lessons from ‘Elysium’: Go Back to Huge Space Colonies’ Idealistic Roots –


The National Space Society is dedicated to the promotion of human settlement of the solar system. Here is a statement from the group about Elysium:

Space Settlements Represent Hope for Humankind

The National Space Society (NSS) offers a comparison of its vision for space settlement to that promoted by many dystopian science fiction movies of today.  NSS has supported the concept of rotating space settlements in orbit or deep space since the epochal publication by Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill of his seminal article on space colonies in Physics Today (1974).

Since those days, concepts of democracy and egalitarian societies have been integral to our vision. A goal of NSS is the creation of a free, spacefaring civilization with people living and working in space. We believe in democracy to build and operate space settlements, whether in space, on the Moon, on Mars, or even on planets around other stars.

A large part of the space movement today is founded on improving life on Earth by creating an ability to operate in space. This includes the ability to divert threatening asteroids, detect solar outbursts that could destroy our electrical grid, and build solar power collection/transmission satellites that could produce huge amounts of carbon free energy in space for use on Earth, enriching all of humankind. In fact, an early justification for building space settlements was to house the labor force needed to build the solar power satellites that would provide a global solar power source to all nations, helping to prevent the ecological and economic collapse and chaos depicted in many dystopian movies of today. NSS believes that we are making the future every day and that we want to build a hopeful future.

NSS is happy that space settlements are beginning to appear in popular culture such as the recent motion picture Elysium.  NSS applauds the cinematic skill that resulted in the depiction of the physical appearance and operation of a rotating orbital space settlement. While NSS accepts that a conflict is fairly fundamental to a good story, we would like movie viewers to keep in mind that the tyrannical government depicted in the movie does not represent the path of humans in space envisioned by the NSS and its thousands of members.


Find lots of links to web resources about space settlement in the HobbySpace Life in Space section.

Update: Here is another view of the movie and space colonies: Space Settlements – Music of the Spheres.

Mars One – update on applications

The Mars One organization has been inviting applications for the first crew to initiate settlement of the Red Planet (see their latest Road map). This week they released an update on the response so far:

Amersfoort, 21st August 2013 – With ten days left before the end of its online application program, Mars One has received interest from more than 165,000 people hoping to be the first humans on Mars. The Mars One Application Program is turning out to be the most desired job vacancy in the world. People from over 140 countries are looking towards the final frontier and envisioning their life on another planet.

USA is at the top of the list of countries where most applicant are from– 23% of all applicants being Americans, followed by China, Brazil, India, Russia, UK, Mexico, Canada, Spain and the Philippines.

Bas Lansdorp, CEO and co-founder of Mars One said: “The cultural diversity of Mars One applicants reflects the international nature of this project and ultimately makes it humanity’s mission to Mars.”

Dr. Norbert Kraft, Chief Medical Officer of Mars One said: “The response to the first round of the Astronaut Selection Program has been tremendous. We now have a large group of applicants from where we can start our search. Finding the best crews of qualified and compatible individuals is crucial to the success of our mission.”

Mars One will continue to accept online applications until 31st of August 2013. Anyone over the age of 18 considering themselves qualified should enter the program by applying online at

Dr. Kraft encourages potential applicants: “It’s easily assumed that Mars One is only looking for pilots and engineers. Don’t disqualify yourself too easily. If you wish to be a Mars pioneer despite of the risks and challenges that come with this job, you’re already more qualified than most people on this planet. It’s most important that you are healthy and smart and have the right mindset. Mars One will teach you the skills you need in the years of training ahead.”

Completed applications will be screened by a team of Mars One experts. They will select the individuals who will pass to the next round of the Selection Program.

Project Morpheus flight testing today

The NASA JSC Project Morpheus is out today for another tethered flight test of their vertical takeoff and landing rocket vehicle – Twitter / MorpheusLander:

Sporting a good luck halo this morning, so it must be a great day for a tether test! Follow along for updates!

Morpheus lander on way to test pad

Follow updates throughout the day at Morpheus Lander (MorpheusLander) on Twitter.