National Space Centre
10 May 2014
Ben and Thomas lead the way to the National Space Centre in Leicester.
Today's trip was a birthday present from the boys to Stephen. The
42-metre-high Rocket Tower houses two rockets as well as other parts of
the Centre. The skin of the tower is made from three layers of ethylene
tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) inflated with air - the front can be unzipped
to gain access.
Inside, a Soyuz 7K OK(A) capsule, from the first generation of the Soyuz
spacecraft - the "A" in its name indicating it has an Active "probe"
docking port. Apparently this one was discovered in a cark park in
Georgia, and brought to the UK for preservation.
Thomas, Debbie, Mark and Ben are weightless in the full-size replica of
the Columbus module of the International Space Station
A Russian pressure suit (a Sokol KV2) as worn in training by the UK's
first astronaut Helen Sharman, and the launch couch that she sat in,
which has been into space four times.
A frangible nut from Space Shuttle mission STS-121. This is one of eight
which held Discovery to the launch pad - when the Solid Rrocket Boosters
ignited, a computer signal triggered explosives that ripped the nuts
Mark and Thomas steer the micro-G manoeuvring chair in the Tranquility
Base section of the Centre
Lunch in the rocket tower - and it looks like one of the rockets is
ready to take off!
A "do not push" button under the rockets is a great attraction
On the left is Thor, the first operational ballistic missile deployed by
the U.S. Air Force: it was deployed in the UK between from 1959 to 1963
as an intermediate range ballistic missile with thermonuclear warheads.
Thor is 20 metres high and 2.4 metres in diameter. On the right is Blue
Streak - initially intended as a medium-range ballistic missile for the
UK's nuclear weapons, and later as the first stage of a civillian
satellite launcher called Black Prince and then as first stage of a
European launcher called Europa, but none of the three projects was
On the left a Gamma 2 engine from Black Knight, a British launch vehicle
to test and verify the design of a re-entry vehicle for the Blue Streak
missile. These engines were
tested at The
Needles on the Isle of Wight. On the right are two RZ.2 engines from
Rolls Royce which were later used in Blue Streak
The tops of Blue Streak and Thor
Also in the National Space Centre today is a Lego exhibition, including
this splendid model of the rocket that took Tintin to the Moon before
A great day out - not photographed were the impressive
"fulldome" planetarium and the Spaceflight Induction Module which was a
bumpy simulation of a flight from the Moon to Europa. Thanks for the