“Honoring our Past, Inspiring our Future”
The Johnsville Centrifuge and Science Museum, Inc. is an all-volunteer organization with a goal of developing a museum and learning center that will preserve the history of the Naval Air Development Center/Naval Air Warfare Center (NADC/NAWC) formerly located in Johnsville/Warminster, PA which will inspire our youth by highlighting the legacy of innovation born of NADC. Among other things, our plans include science exhibits that explain the technology to help visitors, especially children, understand the practical applications of the innovations developed at NADC/NAWC and their importance to our nation’s history.
The alumni of NADC/NAWC; including service members, civilians and contractors, are heroes of a sort. Their milestone achievements were attained through personal sacrifice in the course of their work. The museum will be a monument to their efforts and contributions to winning the Cold War and placing Americans on the moon first. The technology they developed laid the groundwork for advancements that continue to improve our lives today.
We encourage our youth to explore STEM related careers. Through our traveling exhibitions and learning programs, we have inspired thousands in and around Bucks County. In the past few years we have had the privilege of telling the story of NADC/NAWC to countless groups of students, scouts, seniors and numerous civic organizations. We have appeared at area science fairs, career/science camps, and community days telling the story of NADC/NAWC and highlighting how innovations from the NADC/NAWC labs, including GPS, “photo-gray” lenses and fire retardant textiles, have made our lives better.
Along the way, we have acquired a significant collection of exhibits and important artifacts, including the original gondola of the Johnsville Centrifuge, AKA the Mercury 7 Gondola (more about that below). We are now working on the next step or our development as we work with local municipalities and other partners to secure a location to house and display our collection of artifacts and to serve as a permanent public repository of NADC’s legacy of innovation.
MERCURY 7 GONDOLA
The original gondola of the Johnsville Centrifuge was constructed by the McKiernan-Terry Corporation of Harrison, NJ and was in service from the time the centrifuge was commissioned in 1950 until 1964 when it was replaced by the current spherical shaped gondola.
The gondola is made of lightweight composite materials and sheeted in aluminum. It was used to train early Navy jet fighter pilots and all of NASA’s X-15 pilots, including a young test pilot by the name of Neil Armstrong. Beginning in August of 1959 it was used to train all of the astronauts for the Mercury and Gemini programs including Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell. All were subjected to the high G-forces of the Johnsville Centrifuge in this gondola. After its removal in 1964, it was sent by the Navy to the Smithsonian Institution where, due to its size, it was placed in an outdoor storage yard in Suitland, Maryland.
Fast forward to 2009 when the organizers of the Johnsville Centrifuge and Science Museum, fearing that the gondola had long ago been scrapped, did some investigating and found that it had been tucked away at the Smithsonian. After numerous phone calls it was found that the historic gondola had been “deaccessioned” or taken off the books by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Upon securing the commitment of the NASM to transfer the historic gondola to the Museum, a campaign was mounted to return it home to Bucks County, which included the support of Warminster Township, Pennsylvania State University and countless community leaders. Funding for the move of the gondola was made possible through many donations from local citizens and a generous grant from The History Channel in partnership with Comcast .
The Mercury 7 Gondola was brought home to Warminster to great fanfare. Festivities included a special “Welcome Home” ceremony at the Bucks County Visitors Center and a police escort up Street Road. The Mercury 7 Gondola is currently on public display at the Penn State Anechoic Chamber at 300 East Bristol Road, Warminster, PA 18974. Efforts are currently underway to raise funds to clean and preserve this unique piece of American history.
Click below to watch a special video produced by patch.com about the homecoming of the Mercury 7 Gondola which includes a few words from retired Navy Corpsman Art Gunter, who rode the Johnsville Centrifuge over 350 times and helped train the Mercury Astronauts.
“Honoring our Past, Inspiring our Future”
Our goal is to establish a world class educational facility that will inspire local students to pursue engineering and science careers to ensure America’s future technological leadership. We are always looking for interested volunteers, and are always appreciative of any donations. The Johnsville Centrifuge and Science Museum is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Donations may be made securely via PayPal by clicking the “Donate” button at the upper left of this page. You donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law.