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Space Shuttle Pathfinder

By Marty McDowell/NASA

The Pathfinder is a 75 ton Orbiter simulator that was created to work out the procedures for moving and handling the shuttle. It was a steel structure roughly the size, weight and shape of an orbiter. It was constructed at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in 1977 and was used as a stand in for Enterprise to test roads and cranes. Pathfinder was shipped by barge to the Kennedy Space Center and was used for ground crew testing in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Orbital Processing Facility (OPF) and Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). It was then returned to the MSFC.

Pathfinder sat in storage for many years until a group of Japanese businessmen offered to spend $1,000,000 to modify the vehicle to more closely resemble a real orbiter. They used it at the "Great Space Shuttle Exposition in Tokyo, Japan. After the expo, it was returned to MSFC and now is on permanent display at the Alabama Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville Alabama. It is on a special platform and mounted to the Main Propulsion Test Article (MPTA) External Tank used for early tanking tests.

Source: NASA.


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"I remember seeing the Space Shuttle Pathfinder a few years back when I spent a week at the U. S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. It was very cool to see the enormous vehicle there."


Space References (Books):
Dickinson, Terence. Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Firefly Books, 1998.
Greene, Brian. Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Vintage, 2000.
Hawking, Stephen. Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition. Bantam, 1996.
Hawking, Stephen. Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe. New Millenium, 2002.
Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam, 2001.
Kaku, Michio. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension.
Kranz, Gene. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Berkley Pub Group, 2001.
Sagan, Carl; Druyan, Ann. Comet, Revised Edition. Ballantine, 1997
Sagan, Carl. Cosmos, Reissue Edition. Ballantine, 1993
Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Ballantine, 1997

Space References (Videos):
Cosmos. PBS, 2000.
Stephen Hawking's Universe. PBS, 1997.
Hyperspace. BBC, 2002.
Life Beyond Earth PBS, 1999.
The Planets
. BBC, 1999.
Understanding The Universe. A&E, 1996.



Courtesy of NASA

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