What kid hasn’t at some point dreamed of becoming an astronaut? For many, it’s the ultimate in Manly Moments.
For those with enough cash, space travel is quickly becoming the next big bucket list item. But if you’re a tire-kicker, or just plain broke like me, The Space Gallery at Seattle’s Museum of Flight is probably the closest you’ll get to the real thing.
The crown in the Space Gallery’s interstellar jewel is NASA’s Space Shuttle Trainer. Every astronaut who’s been a part of the 135 space shuttle missions since 1981 has spent up to seven weeks in this machine, perfecting knob-fiddling, meter reading, and the all-important space potty training. The faux shuttle was donated to the museum after the shuttle program folded in 2011. The museum only had to pay for shipping —- just shy of $2 million to cut it into pieces and get it Seattle from Houston. The trainer opened to the public in November 2012.
Admission to the Space Gallery and the shuttle trainer is included with the museum admission ticket, but if you want to get to where the real action is — the cockpit — you need to cough up an extra $25, and book well in advance. Tours are also limited to weekends and holidays to cut down on wear and tear on the compartment.
It’s really quite amazing to tour the interior, especially because getting this close to a real space shuttle is pretty much impossible.
The Space Gallery is officially known as The Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. While the name might not be familiar to many, his work probably is. Ever heard of “Word” or “Excel?” Yeah, that’s him. He led the teams at Microsoft that developed them.
He’s also a Seattle-area resident and space tourist, who quite generously donated $3 million to get this place up and running. He also lent them his favorite toy — the Soyuz TMA-14 capsule he returned to earth in on his last trip in space.
There’s also a full-size replica of the International Space Station Research Laboratory on display.
And plenty of other space paraphernalia, like this original old-school Russian space suit. Upon re-entering the atmosphere, Cosmonauts would eject from the main capsule and parachute onto land wearing this get-up.
And if space is not really your thing, there are plenty of other displays of manliness to be had at the Museum of Flight, like this Republic P-47D (F-47) Thunderbolt — aptly named “Big Stud.”