On the tram ride, there were two buildings that we stopped to tour. This post is about our tour of the
Space Vehicle Mockup facility. We were pretty happy to get there, as we were all pretty cold from the Tram cross-campus trip.
This building is one that the astronauts use to train on different space vehicles, mocked up in real life. The tour consisted of walking down a second floor hallway with full glass windows overlooking the facility. I didn’t see any astronauts, but took pictures of some of the other nifty things.
The Soyuz capsule is the current way to get to and home from the International Space Center. (At this point I need to make the caveat that the knowledge being shared here is not extensively researched, but is from my memory, so while I believe it to be the case, it may not be strictly true). It is launched on Russian rockets from Kazahkastan, and currently is the primary vehicle to and from the ISS.
I’m not sure what to say about Brock, other than he and I stuck closely together during the tour.
Some of the things, particularly the work areas didn’t look really cool. You’d probably never try and sell lockers as “designed and used by NASA”, but I guess to keep costs down, you don’t really need outer-space looking designer lockers, computers, screens or tools.
On one of the tables, were two of these sewing machines. Just image the sales pitch that you could come up with for those… “Singer sewing machines, used by astronauts for holes in their suits, just imagine what they could do for you”.
This particular item was used for training in docking vehicles. Apparently, the docking apparatus has to be pretty versatile, as I guess you don’t want to bounce off it, or dock haphazardly in space. It looks less unwieldy (maybe you could say “it is more wieldy”) than the apparatus seen elsewhere used for docking supply ships to Skylab.
I didn’t quite catch the tour guide’s talk about these, but I’m thinking that they are different robotic prototypes that were in development at some point, or are really great and will be used going forward.
Here is a bigger picture of the quad-sort of thing. I’m not sure what use it would be, other than the obvious quad like functionality that it seems to have. Do you talk to the robot front half of the machine? “Let’s go a 2.3 miles southeast, but watch out for barbed wire”. Do you pull on his ears to steer? The seat also looks a bit uncomfortable for bouncing around the lunar landscape.
I also am not sure the functionality of this particular robot is or was. The tour guide talked about how sensitive the touch and movements were in that the robot could turn individual pages of a book. Come to think of it, Brock can do that too!
This one is interesting as it is one of the new Orion capsules, the first of which they just flew on its first test-flight this week. It is supposed to be the next version of NASA space vehicle, likely more functional and comfortable than the old Mercury and Apollo capsules ever were.
These were possible future space habitats, maybe picture them on the surface of the moon or Mars, or the pages of a Popular Science magazine from 30 years ago. I guess if you are going to live on the moon you have to sleep and eat somewhere. They seem like they would feel a little constricting though.
This is a possible vehicle for getting around some distant planet, moon or asteroid, maybe while wearing a bulky space suit. The tires and undercarriage seem like massive overkill- they remind me of the wheels and tires that we used to install on cultivators (an oversimplification of my Dad’s business while I was growing up). It would have been fun to have seen someone trying to drive this around, but alas no astronauts were training that day. I guess that astronauts get Saturdays off as well.
That wraps up the first building of the tram tour. Please forgive any mocking tone that you detect while discussing NASA technology. I’ve heard (but need to get this post done without being sidetracked any further, so am not researching this) that the computers in the space shuttles were 386 computers, like the one that I bought in 1990. Given that the last one flew in 2011, that’s pretty old technology.
I didn’t get a picture of this, but one of the strange things about driving around the Johnson Space Center campus were all of the classic-type bicycles (i.e. pre-dating 10 speeds, anyone remember those?) parked around the campus. My take is that people use them to get around the large campus from building to building, or maybe ride them from their cars to their offices. There certainly wasn’t room for any of them to hop on the tram.