During a trip to Seattle last week, I spent a Sunday afternoon checking out the inside of a space shuttle cockpit. This was one of the coolest things I've done in a while.
I took the tour at Seattle's Museum of Flight, a
Boeing-backed museum that's just extremely cool. I mean, look, they have a room filled with this:
And, of course, this...
A museum like that deserves a space shuttle or something that might even be cooler than a space shuttle, a space shuttle trainer...
See, other cities in America received space shuttles last year. That's nice. Those cities got actual spaceships. Seattle got a full-scale training spaceship that used to be in Texas. Every astronaut, the Museum of Flight tour guides told me, trained in this thing.
Here's the advantage of your city getting a space shuttle trainer instead of a space shuttle. Regular people like you and me get to go inside.
You pay extra for this. A whopping $10. Totally worth it. You crawl in and can access two of the three levels inside the command module. The command module is where the seven astronauts in a shuttle crew sit during take-off. Then, for two weeks, it's where they eat, sleep, work and go to the bathroom. It's cramped in there and probably makes them ache to go outside.
I crawled in and first went to the top level, where the pilot and commander sit during take-off along with two others astronauts.
It's pretty high up.
It's also really tiny. I'm barely 5'6".
Let's take a look at some hastily-shot video. The tour guide wanted me to go downstairs. But I had to shoot this for you fine folks.
Could you fly this? Could master all 2,100 switches and controls...
The shuttle's flight controls are duplicated for the pilot and commander. Then there's a third set behind them, facing the opposite direction. That's for when you're docking with the International Space Station. You know how that is.
To the right of that are the controls for the Canada Arm. Check out the Canadian Flag. Oh!
That's no movie set back there, by the way. That's the rest of the shuttle (trainer).
That's the cool stuff upstairs. The next level down has higher ceilings but isn't exactly a luxury suite. It's so cramped that I couldn't get a good shot of the whole tiny space. Here I am in what's about half of the room:
Check out this kitchen...
What's fancier than that kitchen? This bathroom. A guide told us that micro-gravity makes going to the bathroom a 45-minute process...
Here's where you'd sleep...
You may have noticed colored squares in some of these images. They're velcro patches for attaching tools, lest those tools float away. The patches are color-coded to identify whether the tools attached belong to NASA or private companies.
When it's time to go to the cargo bay or up to the ISS, astronauts go though this little hole:
On the other side, they wind up here...
Reverse shot of that. Notice how the cargo gets way more room than the astronauts? The shuttle was made for hauling freight.
The Canada Arm is thicker than I thought it'd be...
That's pretty much the tour.
You can walk around and see some related exhibits. Video game fans might even spot a familiar face.
I highly recommend that you check this out, too. If you're in Seattle, go!