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Tallahassee Democrat: Orion spacecraft on display today, Saturday at Challenger Learning Center

Friday, June 24, 2011

Orion spacecraft on display  today, Saturday at Challenger Learning Center 

By Elizabeth M. Mack • Democrat staff writer• Published: June 24. 2011 2:00AM 

More than 500 people from all over the world have traveled into space. However, only 24 of those individuals have gone more than a few hundred miles from the earth’s surface. 

That’s about to change, says Larry Price, Orion deputy program manager at Lockheed Martin.

Orion is NASA’s latest project — a spacecraft that will have the capability to carry humans deep into space.

“This spacecraft will allow astronauts to travel to other planets and asteroids,” Price said. “It will help us learn about our solar system and how to possibly change the path of asteroids or even break up the body.”

Today and Saturday the Tallahassee community will have the chance to see the spacecraft during a special visit at the Challenger Learning Center. It will be set up outside at Kleman Plaza.

“We are the perfect fit for (the visit),” said Chelsea Bundschuh, CLC marketing assistant. “We are a nonprofit that uses space to educate to the youth. We also have a summer camp going on right now and this week the camp is focused on rockets. The kids are really excited.”

Bundschuh said there’s a viewing platform so that people can look into Orion. And engineers from Lockheed Martin and NASA astronauts will be on hand, making presentations and answering questions about the spacecraft. Also in conjunction with the visit, Hubble 3D will be showing at noon on both days at the CLC IMAX theater. Children ages 12 and under are free with an adult.

The spacecraft is a full-scale flight test module, Price said. It’s traveling from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California to Kennedy Space Center. Along the way, the test module has made stops at the Prima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz., and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. The stop in Tallahassee is the last for Orion before it goes to Kennedy, where it will undergo more tests. Orion is scheduled for launch in 2016, Price said.
“It’s an opportunity for the public to get an up-close and personal look at what a human interplanetary spacecraft vehicle will look like,” he said. “They can also hear about plans for our return to the moon and travel to the moons of Mars and be able to return men and women safely to Earth.”
Orion will be open for public viewing today from noon to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

“We are thrilled that they chose Tallahassee as a location,” Bundschuh said. “They chose a number of big cities that have an importance in space travel and we are glad that they see Tallahassee as one of those locations.”

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