Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO Dedicates Grissom Center, Part 4: Special Guest Panel

By Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl
The Space Museum in Bonne Terre, Missouri dedicated their newest gallery during a public event held on Saturday, March 16. Hundreds of visitors from the local area and from around the country joined with astronauts, aerospace engineers, prominent authors and media representatives to celebrate the opening of the Grissom Center, named for astronaut Gus Grissom. The tickets for the meet-and-greet session and panel discussion were sold out, but the public was encouraged to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the museum galleries. The Grissom Center is located in the Heritage Hall building next to the original museum location and will be open during regular visiting hours.

The morning activities consisted of the pre-event reception and ribbon-cutting at the Grissom Center, featured in Part 2 of this series, and the museum tours and autograph sessions featured in Part 3. Here we conclude our coverage of the Grissom Center dedication with a look at the special guest panel discussion held following the lunch break. The Space Museum President, Earl Mullins, opened the session by thanking those who contributed to the success of the event. Recognition was given to the "Mercury Six," including Mr. Bob Schepp who recently passed away. These men were tasked by McDonnell Aircraft with designing, building and testing the Mercury spacecraft at the dawn of the U.S. Manned Space Program, and they continue to educate the next generation on the past accomplishments and future potential of space flight. Following the recognition of these space program pioneers, the colors were posted by a Civil Air Patrol color guard. 

The keynote speaker for the afternoon program was Rob Kelso, former NASA Flight Director for 25 Space Shuttle flights, Mission Director for the deployment for the Chandra X-Ray Telescope and Johnson Space Center Deputy Director for Safety and Mission Assurance. He has since served as the Executive Director of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems and is Founder and CEO of Kelso Aerospace Consulting. His presentation, "Zoo In Space?" was a humorous look at the contribution of animals in space flight from the two Mercury chimpanzees, Enos and Ham, to a variety of animals flown in the Space Shuttle. Pre-launch testing on pigs determined that humans could withstand up to eight times the force of gravity during the launch and atmospheric reentry of the Mercury flights. Space Shuttle experiments showed that ants and spiders could adapt to zero gravity, while fish became confused due to their reliance on gravity to swim.

The moderator for the panel discussion was Janet Ivey, host of the award-winning Nashville PBS series, Janet's Planet. Ivey brings STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) educational programming to students and educators throughout the country through her Public Television program, teacher resources and live presentations. She introduced the panel members, five astronauts, a flight director and a distinguished writer, and provided discussion topics based on the first-hand experience of each participant. The panel discussion was informative and engaging for the audience in large part due to her poise and professionalism. A short biography and a comment from each panel member are included below.  
Dr. Linda Godwin, a Jackson, MO native, flew on four Space Shuttle flights as a Mission Specialist. She performed two space walks and flew on missions to Mir and the International Space Station. "I was working on my PhD when NASA announced they were hiring again for the Shuttle Program and for the very first time were actively recruiting women to apply...What I was doing fit the basic criteria. So the education opened the door for me and a lot of support along the way." Godwin said that she did not have everything figured out in advance, but pursued her desire to become a NASA astronaut.     

Thomas Akers, an Eminence, MO native, was a U.S. Air Force test pilot before joining NASA. He flew four missions as a Space Shuttle Mission Specialist and performed over 29 hours of space walk activity. "We all felt very well trained the first time we went out on our first space walks." He credited the technical and supporting staff for this and for all they did to make each mission possible.
Dick Richards, a St. Louis, MO native, was a U.S. Navy test pilot before joining NASA. He flew four missions as a Space Shuttle pilot and commander and later joined Boeing to support the Shuttle program. "For those new astronauts...I think we need to be there for them, support them, teach them what we learned, and teach them what went wrong for us." He mentioned Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean as the one who taught him "how to be an astronaut." 
Charles Walker, a Bedford, IN native, became the first aerospace industry astronaut when he flew on three Space Shuttle missions as a Mission Specialist for the McDonnell Douglas Continuous Flow Electrophoresis Device. This apparatus was used to manufacture protein crystals in space. "The most memorable to sit on top of that rocket, fully-fueled...with four million pounds of high-explosive underneath you!" He went on to dramatically describe the launch of a Space Shuttle, making the audience feel as if they were in the seat next to him.

Jerry Ross, also an Indiana native, flew on seven Space shuttle missions following his career as a pilot and flight test engineer for the U.S. Air Force and NASA. He has performed nine space walks totaling over 58 hours. "In a 24-hour day we get to see 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets. And every one of them seems to try to outdo the last one in terms of its beauty." 
Rob Kelso was the NASA Flight Director for 25 Space Shuttle flights, Mission Director for the deployment for the Chandra X-Ray Telescope, and Johnson Space Center Deputy Director for Safety and Mission Assurance. "We almost had to come in in Africa in my first five minutes of my first flight as a Flight Director!" He went on to tell the story of how a secret DoD Space Shuttle flight was almost cut short due to a leak of pressure from the toilet facility.

George Leopold is a veteran science and technology writer who has extensively covered the U.S. Manned Space Program. His recent book is Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom. "Gus embraced these risks, he worked his tail off and everything he got he earned. I wanted everybody to remember that...I don't think it's an overstatement to say that Gus Grissom is beloved in this country, and I want to keep his memory alive."  
The panel discussion concluded with a rousing applause from the several hundred members of the audience. The Aero Experience thanks the members of the panel, Mac's Old Team, The Space Museum staff and volunteers and all who contributed to the success of the Grissom Center dedication event. We encourage everyone to visit and support this great Midwest treasure!

No comments: