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Posts Tagged ‘History Channel’

Looking Forward to 2012

Dear Friend of the Museum,

It is now time to look ahead to 2012, but before we do lets reflect on the accomplishments of the past several months. As we look back on 2011 we realize that we have had a very good year indeed. Our success is entirely due to our friends, supporters, sponsors and our tireless volunteers. A few highlights from 2011 include:

  • The return of the Mercury 7 Gondola to Warminster on May 5th coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s historic flight. The gondola was held at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum’s storage yard in Suitland, Maryland for the past 47 years. Special thanks to Comcast and the History Channel for making the move possible.
  • A wonderful Spring Gala held in May and highlighted by two special guests, Art Guntner who assisted the Mercury Astronauts and who rode the centrifuge over 350 times himself related his unique oral history. He was joined by Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer for the Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute who delivered an inspiring story of his own.
  • The return of the Iron Maiden in August brought out many who worked with Flannigan Grey when he set his near unbeatable world record with the device in 1958.
  • A wonderful time at Warminster Day in September where we had an opportunity to display some exhibits in our “Museum in the Park” that are on loan from the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum in Maryland. We were also fortunate to have the weather cooperate for a flyover by a Navy F-18 that thanks to the coordination and support of Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick. The pilot was called in by NADC’s own Bob Campbell.
  • A special “friendraising” evening on December 8th at the Campbell Classic Auto Museum in Doylestown where supporters got to see some of the centrifuge couches that we have acquired from the National Air and Space Museum.

We could not have done any of these things or achieved any of our goals in 2011 without volunteers or supporters like you who have given so much of their time to make the museum the success that it has become.

We look forward to a busy and exciting 2012 as we continue to raise funds to preserve the Mercury 7 Gondola, make plans to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of John Glenn’s historic orbital flight in February and hold our Third Annual Spring Gala in April. Our education programs kick off in January with a visit form a traveling classroom followed shortly by our first participation in a science fair in February. We look forward to another special year as we create a place that honors the history of innovation at NADC and inspires our youth to reach for the stars in all that they do.

Thank you for your support.

Michael Maguire
President
Johnsville Centrifuge & Science Museum

History Made Here

Below is the text of an editorial that appeared in the Daily Intelligencer on Monday, May 9, 2011.

History made here

America’s space program has roots in Warminster

IT WAS ALL so new then, so unfamiliar, so much like something out of Capt. Video: On May 5, 1961 – 50 years ago – astronaut Alan B. Shepard, one of the original seven U.S. astronauts, became the first American in outer space.

The Russians had beaten us to manned flight – Yuri Gagarin did it in April of that year – just as they had shocked the United States and the world years earlier with the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite.

By comparison, Gagarin’s ride – a 108-minute orbital trip – made Shepard’s 15-minute suborbital journey seem like a walk across the street.

Nevertheless, Shepard was hailed as a national hero with parades in several cities. President John F. Kennedy awarded him a medal. More importantly, Shepard’s “foot in the space door” launched America’s manned space program, which eventually overtook the Soviet Union’s and culminated with the first moon landing, Apollo 11, in July 1969. Shepard himself would walk on the moon in 1971 as the commander of Apollo 14.

Shepard retired from NASA in 1974 and died of leukemia on July 21, 1998, 21 years to the day after the first moon walk. Though he’ll never be forgotten as America’s first space pioneer, he’s back in the news for a couple of reasons.

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service issued a first-class stamp in Shepard’s honor.

And in an event much closer to home, the original centrifuge gondola that Shepard trained in during Project Mercury was returned to Warminster Township, where the former Johnsville Naval Air Development Center once was home to the world’s largest human centrifuge. The arrival of the gondola on May 5 coincided with the 50th anniversary of Shepard’s first flight.

Many other astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs came to the NADC to ride the gondola and experience the effects of high G-forces that they would later be subjected to during launches.

After its days of spinning astronauts were over, the gondola became part of the collection at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. But its place at the Smithsonian for well over four decades – in an outside storage yard, away from public view – hardly did proper justice to such a key contributor to the U.S. space program.

According to the Johnsville Centrifuge and Science Museum website, the return of the gondola to its home in Warminster is part of the Save Our History campaign sponsored by The History Channel.
Eventually, the gondola will be displayed at the centrifuge building.

That our early astronauts prepared for their journeys right in our own backyard is not a particularly well-known chapter in the story of America’s space program. The centrifuge gondola’s homecoming is a good reason to learn about the role Bucks County played in the nation’s early exploration of the final frontier.