Mon, Jun 18, 2012
Forgotten Full-Scale Model Has Been Sitting In A Warehouse
In 1972, when the shuttle program was getting up a head of steam, Rockewell built a nearly full-scale mock up of the orbiter largely out of wood and plastic. As the program gathered momentum and spacecraft began to regularly fly to low-Earth orbit, the mock up was largely forgotten ... gathering dust in a warehouse in Downey, CA, under large sheets of plastic.
But the model is about to have a new life. The Downey City Council recently approved a resolution that will allow the mock up to be temporarily moved to a movie studio parking lot under a large tent, and placed on public display. The exhibit is expected to be open late this summer, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
For the past several years, the only way to see the mock up was by invitation. There were some school trips to see the model several years ago, but more recently, visitors had to be led through an otherwise largely vacant warehouse by flashlight. The model was behind three padlocked chain-link fences, covered in shrink-wrap, in the middle of a million square foot building.
So why the move now? After Boeing acquired Rockwell International, it closed the Downey plant in 1999. The building was sold to an industrial real estate firm in 2003, but the sale included a contract which required that the shuttle mock up was to be kept on the site. Now, a shopping center is being planned in the LA suburb, and the model has to go.
Long-range plans are for the model to be placed on permanent display at the nearby Columbia Memorial Space Center, which was opened in 2009 as a national memorial to the crew of the space shuttle Columbia which broke apart during re-entry in 2003. But there are many hurdles to be cleared before that plan can come to fruition, not the least of which is the estimated $2 million it will take to make the exhibit happen. But Scott Pomrehn, the executive director of the Columbia Memorial Space Center hopes that the money can be found. "The bottom line is this is the original shuttle. One one Rockwell sold NASA on. And it's been sitting in the dark," he told the paper. (Image courtesty NASA)
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