Location- LAT: 34.7108 LONG: -86.6528
Today we traveled about 50 miles east on route 72 to Huntsville Alabama to check out the U.S Space and Rocket Center.
The cost to enter the center is extremely high at $25 per ticket, so we decided to see what we could see from just outside the park, luckily the shuttle and the Saturn IV rocket are big enough that it didn’t matter .
A little background info from Atlas Obscura website:
“Pathfinder is one of three official Orbiter Vehicle test articles. Unofficially labeled as OV-098, it was built in 1977 by NASA and was at the time unnamed.
Made as a full-scale simulator of the shuttle (it was about the same weight, size, and shape of an actual Orbiter vehicle), Pathfinder was used for ground testing in the place of the much more expensive—also also quite delicate—Space Shuttle Enterprise. As a result, Pathfinder was used for a whole range of testing purposes like making sure the machinery could fit within the appropriate structures and checking roadway clearances and crane capabilities.
However, all this testing only lasted for so long, and the then-unnamed vehicle sat in storage for quite some time before the America-Japan Society bought it for $1 million. The organization then made it look more like the other Orbiters and also named it it Pathfinder. From 1983 to 1984, Pathfinder remained on display at the “Great Space Shuttle Exposition” in Tokyo, Japan. After the exhibit concluded, Pathfinder headed back home to the United States, where the U.S. Space and Rocket Center both designed and built the display where it stands today.
Pathfinder is displayed with the Main Propulsion Test Article External Tank (MPTA-ET), the large orange tank currently attached to it. Though it never made it to space, the MPTA-ET was the first of these iconic orange tanks ever produced. Attached to the MPTA-ET are two Shuttle Rocket Booster (SRB) casings, which had previously been prepared to launch polar-orbit missions from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is one of only four places to view SRB’s.”
Our time here in Alabama will be coming to an end soon. We’ll be continuing our trek north with our next stop outside of Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky.
Until next time.