Space shuttle display opens at Ohio museum

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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A much-awaited space shuttle display is opening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton.

The $1.7 million walk-through, mock-up of a space shuttle was built for the museum after it was unable to secure one of NASA's three existing space shuttle orbiters after NASA retired the program. The exhibit opens Wednesday.

The shuttle display will be temporarily housed in the Cold War gallery until it is relocated to a new $34.5 million hangar set to open in early 2016 at the world's largest military aviation museum, the Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/1c7lBjD ) reported.

The 65-ton mock-up is built around a crew compartment trainer that hundreds of NASA astronauts trained in to master 2,000 cockpit controls and instruments prior to launch. A crew from Display Dynamics spent 15 months designing, engineering, fabricating and building a payload bay, tail section and other parts to recreate the scope and size of the shuttle.

"I think this is going to have a lot of appeal not just locally but even worldwide because not everyone has a shuttle," said Veit Von Parker, the company's president and CEO.

Visitors can look into the shuttle cockpit and a mid-level deck. Eventually, the exhibit will display the shuttle's heat resistant tiles, space suits, an airlock, and other space artifacts, said Cindy Henry, a museum aerospace educator. A 60-seat amphitheater-style classroom is next to the exhibit for related programs.

"Hopefully, a lot of younger people will take advantage of this resource here at the museum and begin to expand their horizons when it comes to science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Von Parker said. "We've just let too much leave this country, and I'm glad to see efforts like this, hopefully, to bring it back."

James Free, director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, said the space agency's decision to send the trainer to the museum acknowledged the Air Force's significant contribution to the space shuttle program.

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Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com

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