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One small step

Shuttle simulator begins move to home in Aggieland

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07



Astronaut Mike Fossum, Class of 1980, speaks in front of the NASA space shuttle simulator and A&M and NASA officials in December.

Sign Agreement

Paul Hill, director of Mission Control, and Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin sign the agreement to bring the simulator to College Station.



The first shipment of the shuttle simulator arrived Wednesday; the second will arrive in June. Once installed, the simulator will be used in classrooms, and it will give students an experience of what it’s like to pilot a real spacecraft.

Texas A&M is the new home of NASA's Shuttle Mission Simulator. The first of two shipments of the simulator arrived on the campus on Wednesday and the second will be transported in June. It is expected to be open to the public by early 2013.

"It's the only large part of the space program that is going to stay in Texas," said John Valasek, professor of aerospace engineering. "We're honored and excited to have this artifact."

Texas A&M gained ownership of the simulator by means of a bidding processes that compared plans for use, maintenance and accessibility. It will be housed at the University Services Building and will be on display for the public, who will be able to "fly" a simulated re-entry and landing.

The simulator will be in exactly the same condition as it was for the 355 astronauts who used it to train for real missions. None of the controls will be reproductions. For this reason, the simulator must be delivered in two shipments.

"[The simulator] has to be shipped in two shipments mostly because of its complexity," said Grant Atkinson, aerospace engineering graduate student and the student primarily coordinating the transport. "It's a big machine. It takes up about two floors when it's running."

The first shipment will transport all the smaller components of the simulator, such as computers and avionics. During the second shipment, the much larger body of the simulator will be transported.

Along with being open to the public, the simulator will be used as a teaching tool.

"It's going to be used in classes, and it will be up to the students and the professors how it's used," Atkinson said. "It will give students an experience of what it's like to pilot a spacecraft."

Even with the doors closing on the space shuttle program, the simulator is still an extremely valuable piece of equipment.

"It is a historic artifact from the space program. I wouldn't even begin to know how much it's worth," Valasek said. "It's priceless."

Atkinson said that, considering the immense value of the simulator, he's proud that A&M will be its new home.

"I'm excited we were recognized as worthy enough to have this, and I think we'll get a lot of use out of it for years to come," Atkinson said.

Kristin Ehrhardt, junior aerospace engineering major, said she was disappointed that A&M didn't receive an actual shuttle, but getting the simulator did soften the blow.

"We were disappointed when we weren't getting the shuttle," she said. "So a lot of us were so excited when were found out about the simulator. We didn't forget, but we were happy."

Ehrhardt also said the simulator will be a good educational tool.

"I think it's awesome because it's at least the actual simulator," Ehrhardt said. "We already have the airplane simulator and it's great for classes to have an additional instrument."

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