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Local Space Museum acquires space shuttle components for display

BONNE TERRE – The Space Museum in Bonne Terre is hosting two events on Saturday, Sept. 15 to unveil the recently acquired Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) components. Museum president and founder, Earl Mullins said, “Jerry Philips from NASA indicated that this is about as complete an engine as anyone outside a federal installation will receive. The nozzles have been retained for potential future NASA flight projects.”

The SSME components include the high pressure liquid oxygen pump, high pressure liquid hydrogen fuel pump, combustion chamber and injection head assembly; all produced by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

“We will also highlight many other shuttle era articles we have received from NASA at the events,” said Mullins.

Saturday’s events include:

• Social media enthusiasts who use Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr, YouTube, et cetera are invited to The Space Museum at 9 a.m. to meet the dignitaries before the public event. In addition, they will participate in the uncrating.

The event, called a social, allows a limited number of participants to closely enjoy the celebration. To participate in the social — limited to 15 participants — contact The Space Museum at Meals will be provided.

• The public is invited to the SSME Uncrating Celebration at 10 a.m. The SSME components are in large shipping crates and will be opened at the uncrating celebration. Lowell Grissom, brother of Apollo 1 astronaut Gus Grissom, will attend as a special guest. Missouri State Rep. Linda Black will be attending and Gov. Jay Nixon has been invited to attend.

Special guest, astronaut Charlie Walker, will speak about his experiences as the first industrial payload specialist. Walker is an American engineer who flew on three Space Shuttle missions in 1984 and 1985 as a payload specialist for the McDonnell Douglas Corporation. He was the first non-government person to fly in space.

Born in Bedford, Ind., Walker is married to the former Susan Y. Flowers of Joplin. He graduated in 1966 from Bedford High School and in 1971 received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University

Walker’s flight was part of a NASA effort in the 1970s and early 1980s to fly civilians on the shuttle. Although Europeans were training for Spacelab Payload Specialist duties, he was the first non government-affiliated person in space.

Walker remained a McDonnell Douglas employee and commuted between company headquarters in St. Louis and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex. Training included a flight on a Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainer aircraft, and about 40 flights on the “Vomit Comet.” He later stated that his experience showed that a “working passenger” could fly after an abbreviated training program of a few months.

Although Walker believed at the time that STS-41-D would be his only flight, he also accompanied the CFES equipment on STS-51-D, and STS-61-B, accumulating 20 days of experience in space and traveling 8.2 million miles. Aboard these Space Shuttle missions Walker also performed early protein crystal growth experiments and participated as a test subject in numerous medical studies.

He began training fellow McDonnell Douglas employee Robert Wood to fly on STS-61-M in 1986, and expected to fly at least once more himself — perhaps on Space Station Freedom — before the destruction of Challenger in January 1986 ended commercial shuttle payloads.

In addition to Walker, former McDonnell Douglas engineers Lou Mavros, Dean Purdy, Jerry Roberts and Earl Robb will be available at the uncrating to answer questions about the SSME.

Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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