Saturday, July 27, 2019

The International Spaceflight Museum

By Bisyl Shuftan

 In Spaceport Alpha is one of the better-known science-themed places in Second Life: the International Spaceflight Museum. According to the notecard provided, the place was founded sometime in late 2005 and has been ad Spaceport Alpha since "early 2006," with the Spaceport Bravo sim added in 2007. Kat Lemieux is the co-founder and chairman of the group that maintains the location.

Near the entrance are a number of flags, Each is from a nation that launched something into space. The music stream has a number of space-related songs, such as "The Eagle has landed."

The Spaceflight Museum is full of rockets. But not far from the entrance, there are two you can take up: a Gemini rocket and a Space Shuttle.

Gemini is the smaller of the two, and can seat up to two people.

Just click, select "board," and type "+blastoff."

And it's a rocket ride into space!

It isn't long before the sky goes black and you seeing stars. Your destination, the space station. But there's another way to get there.

 You can board the Shuttle Atlantis for a ride to the Space Station as well.

And we have liftoff!

The Shuttle docks directly with the Space Station.

 But you can also board the Shuttle, undock, and return to the surface.

 But reentry can be a little hot. Good thing the shuttle is covered with heat-insulating tiles.

And the Shuttle comes in for a landing, though far away from where you boarded it.

There is a ride back to the launch site.

And you can resume your looking around from where you were.

The Spaceflight Museum is best known for it's ring of rockets.

The V-2 rocket was technically the first rocket to make it into space in 1944. When the Americans used it as a "bumper" or first stage of a combination with their WAC, the US finally got into space as well.

The Soviet space program achieved a number of firsts with it's rockets. Their R-7 Semyorka was the one that got Sputnik, the first satellite into space, in 1957. The Vostok-K would launch Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, in 1961.

China got a later start in it's space program than the US and Soviets/Russians. But their rockets have been getting bigger and better, as well as their goals.

There are others, such as SpaceX and India.

In the middle of the circle of rockets is the theater area, which is often used for live events. When the shuttle was flying, people would gather here for launches and landings.

Underneath the ring are a number of exhibits such as the Apollo Moon lander, Mars landers, and more.

Spaceport Bravo has fewer exhibits than Spaceport Alpha. But some are bigger.

 The Vehicle Assembly Building in the Kennedy Space Center is one of the largest buildings in the world. It takes a building like that to make a rocket like the Saturn V used in the Apollo launches.

There isn't much about the Saturn V that isn't small. From the launch tower ...

To the mobile launcher platform, this thing is simply massive.

Nearby, the capsule that held the three astronauts on Apollo launches.

Spaceport Bravo has one of the two gift shops.

There are globes of the Sun, the Moon, and each of the planets except Uranus, due to it's weird axis of rotation.

As we mentioned earlier, way above the ground and accessible by rocket (and teleporter) is the space station.

But there's more up there to see.

You can also see exhibits of the various planets, such as Saturn and it's massive rings.

 Uranus never seems to get much respect due to the juvenile jokes about it's name, but it's unique due to it's extreme axial tilt that places it sideways.

When the Spaceflight Museum was first built, Pluto was considered the ninth planet. But when Eris, a Kepler Belt object far beyond it's orbit, was discovered to be slightly larger, astronomers decided there had to be a change. So Pluto ended up being "demoted" to the newly created status of dwarf planet, which includes Ceres which had once been considered the largest asteroid.

The Mars exhibits included a look on the surface.

South of Spaceport Alpha is Explorer Island. It is not part of the Spaceflight Museum, but is it's own science education area. It has a number of exhibits. But this is for another story.

On a final note, the Spaceflight Museum is supported by donations, "operated by a US 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit charity, incorporated in Texas as ISMuseum." Besides buying things at the gift shops, you can also donate to help keep it afloat.

After all these years, the place continues to educate, and fascinate, and used as an example to newcomers as what great places are in Second Life.

Bixyl Shuftan

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