SpaceX Dragon joins the Mercury and Apollo capsules on display in Chicago

May 22, 2024

– A twice-flown SpaceX capsule has been put on display for the first time alongside the second Mercury spacecraft to carry an American into orbit and the first Apollo command module to fly astronauts to the moon.

The latest first-generation Dragon capsule that SpaceX built to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station went on display on Sunday (May 19) as part of a renovated gallery at the newly renamed Griffin Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago . A $125 million donation by hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin – the largest contribution in the museum’s history – helped revamp the Henry Crown Space Center, including the addition of the SpaceX display.

“This is the first major renovation of the Henry Crown Space Center since it opened in 1986,” said Voula Saridakis, curator of the Griffin Museum of Science and Industry, in an interview with collectSPACE. “Previously, the gallery was current up to the Space Shuttle and the manned and unmanned missions in the 1990s.”

“We have now updated all the content,” Saridakis said. “It’s still an exhibit about space exploration since the 1950s, but now it emphasizes space exploration of the last twenty to thirty years.”

Astronaut Scott Carpenter’s 1962 Mercury spacecraft “Aurora 7” and the Apollo 8 command module that flew Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders to the moon in 1968 remain star attractions, but so do the SpaceX Dragon and others, more recent artifacts. the gallery.

“When you first walk into the Henry Crown Space Center, we have the Apollo and Mercury there and you take in that history,” Saridakis said. “If you go to the back, you will see the entrance to the Dragon Enclosure. Go in and experience the more recent missions, see what they represent and why they are important.”

Dragon C113, donated by SpaceX and delivered to the museum two years ago, logged 64 days during its two missions to the space station. It was used for the 12th and 17th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) flights launched under contract for NASA in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Among the deliveries were the Cosmic-Ray Energetics and Mass (CREAM) scientific instrument and the STP-H6 demo, the latter built to perform the first space-based X-ray band communications.

C113 is the only second Dragon spacecraft on permanent public display, following another first-generation capsule at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. SpaceX also displays a flown Dragon at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

As part of the renovation, the Dragon and Apollo 8 were placed in custom-made conical glass cases that surround visitors during the capsules’ journeys using lighting effects and video walls.

“We created these new display cases for both the Apollo and Dragon, which offer 360 degrees [degree] views. Both are surrounded by videos, media pieces that are very immersive so you feel like you are actually in the space,” Saridakis told collectSPACE. “Radial lights extend in line through the exhibition and there are also lamps in the cabinets who work with the background videos as you watch the footage of their launch, time floating through space and their return.”

Other artifacts at the Henry Crown Space Center also benefit from new effects. “Aurora 7” has its own video wall, and a test article from the Apollo lunar module is placed in a recreation of the original environment.

“It’s a fantastic, unique artifact because it’s the only one used by all twelve astronauts [to walk on the moon] to train at the Kennedy Space Center. We redesigned that space to look more like the training area, rather than trying to present the lunar module as if it were actually on the moon.”

Visitors to the Henry Crown Space Center can now also see tools and food used by Apollo-era astronauts, and a prototype garment and biofeedback belt worn by Mae Jemison, the first American woman of color to fly into space and born in Chicago.

Saridakis said she plans for more to come.

“The Apollo and Mercury are on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, but we certainly plan to add more space objects to our permanent collection here at the Museum of Science and Industry,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *