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 apart.

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 successful.

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 Neil Armstrong.

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 trip.



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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson