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The Space Shuttle, Palmdale
A Day Get-A-Way From L.A.
(also visit the March Air Field Musuem here)
Seen everything in L.A.? Want a new daylong tour? Here's something.
We went to visit our friend at the Boeing Company in Palmdale to see the Space Shuttle. What a trip. First we had to send them our names, social security numbers, and all that a week in advance, and then have our ID, Registration, and Insurance upon entering the Boeing compound, but Revin Kevin, our host, met us at the gate and we breezed right in. We checked in at the front gate and got our ID badge and entered the back door of a huge building, which had to have the roof elevated to accomadate the space shuttle.
THE BOTTOM OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE. THE HOSES ARE COMING FROM THE TWO PLACES WHERE THE SHUTTLE CONNECTS (AND DISCONNECTS) FROM THE MAIN BOOSTER. THE HIGH TEMPERATURE TILES ARE 6" X 6" AND 2" INCHES THICK, COST THOUSANDS EACH, AND ARE LIGHT AS STYROFOAM. THEY COVER THE HULL LIKE A MOSIAC, ALL PERFECTLY CUT AND POSITIONED WITH HEAT SENSORS BEHIND THEM TO RECORD DATA.
Inside the door were photos of all the astronauts that went on all the shuttle missions, and just beyond that, an emense building filled to every nick and corner with high teck looking equipment and scaffolding. Inside the scaffolding on one side was the shuttle, almost hidden within 3 or 4 stories of high tech alluminum scaffolding, and we could see the outside of the shuttle in places.
We could see where the tiles were being replaced, most of them 6" by 6" which covered the entire jet. We were told not to touch the any of them or any part of the outside of the shuttle. The glue that glued the tiles in place had to cure at a certain temperature and certain humidity, so they had to pump in humidity, it being Palmdale and all. The tiles were at least an inch thick, some 2 inches thick, and I imagined them to be heavy like the tiles in the bathroom, but they had samples there, and they felt like styrofoam. I couldn't believe it. Kevin said they had to be lightweight, but were actually made of silicon, or glass or carbon, or something like that. (I hope I didn't give away any government secrets)
Anyway, on the third deck, we could see the top canopys were open and inside were . . . more scaffording. You couldn't see much else, except tons of wiring, which Kevin said was done mostly by women, who seem to have more patience. They also sew the heatresistance fabric used to replace the heavier tiles in places where the sensors from previous trips told them they didn't need as much heat resistance. The reason there is so much heat, is because they go 18,000 miles an hour. Oh. That's all? The front of the wings take the most heat, and are curved just right, so they are made of special tiles that take a year each to make, and cost $200,000.00 each tile! The overhaul of the shuttle with the tile replacement where necessary cost about 2 million, and the entire shuttle cost about 2 billion. (over 10 years) Well, at least it's better than building jets to destroy, Kevin said, It makes me feel better.
THE SPACE SHUTTLE IN IT'S BOEING HANGER, PALMDALE
The windows of the plane, which were covered up, were very expensive, he said, and were 2 inch thick special glass that you had to have a special degree and clearance just to touch. The entire thing was pretty amazing, all enclosed in scaffolding, and Kevin's little office/cubicle was under the right wing, which was off limits to tourist, but we saw his desk and he assured me he had a few copies of Rock City News in the top drawer.
We could see the two openings in the bottom of the shuttle (it was elevated) in the bottom of the shuttle, which was like the bottom of a whale, where the liquid oxygen fuel is pumped from the main booster rocket into the shuttle itelf to power it rockets. I guess this is where the accident happened to the one shuttle a few years back. even though the fault was with the booster rocket, not the actual shuttle itself, the entire industry took a black eye. Keven told me the pumps that pump the liquid oxygen from the main booster rocket into the shuttle's rocket engines could pump out a swimming pool in one and a half seconds.
The rest of the huge building was filled with high tech stuff and off limits, so we exited the back door again and checked out and followed him around the huge airport complex to an outdoor display of two blackbird jets and a few other airforce jets. It was almost dark, and we got some souveniers in the souvenier stand, and headed home. There's a great mall right by the freeway with a lot of great stores, so this air town was booming. Boeing, Lockheed, Rockwell, all the aerospace companies were out there in the Lancaster area.
The United Space Alliance is a Boeing/Lockheed Martin joint venture formed to conduct the Space Flight Operations Contract for NASA. All the shuttles were built here in Palmdale. We even got a glimple of the new top secret fighter jet (on the cover of their local newsletter. they were carefull to make sure we didn't take any real ones) and pictures of pictures on the wall of the new upcoming spaceships that will venture beyond earth's orbit.
THE BLACKBIRD, FRONT AND BACK
Thanks Kevin, for a great tour. Check out his articles in Rock City News as Revin Kevin.
Also check out new pictures of Laguna Beach, with their art festival, also Pismo Beach,with a Volley Ball Championship, Oceano Beach, Santa Barbara w/ art fair and park festival, and nearby Piadaro Beach, with cool rock formations.
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