California Science Center  6


This is the Gemini 11 spacecraft which was an early NASA human spaceflight program and helped get ready for the Apollo moon landings. The Gemini missions were flown in 1965 and 1966 and it held two astronauts. Gemini was named after a constellation and the name means "twins." This name was used because the Gemini capsule would carry two people. Each Gemini mission carried the two astronauts into Earth orbit for periods ranging from 5 hours to 14 days.



The heat shield is 7' 8" in diameter, is made from resign like material and is heated by friction of the atmosphere upon reentry. The outer surface vaporized from a solid to a gas with temps exceeding 3,500 degrees F. As it burned away it carries away heat and you can see the carbon residue it left behind.

Gemini's heat shield derived from ballistic missile warhead technology. The dish shaped shield creates a shock wave in the atmosphere that holds off most of the heat. The rest dissipated by ablation, which means that it was designed to melt and erode away as it heated up. Ablative heat shields are not reusable.



Here is a close-up of what the heat shield looks like. The substance of the Gemini heat shield is a paste like silicone elastomer material which hardens after being poured into a honeycomb form. Honeycomb structures are used throughout early and later aircrafts such as wing spars, bodies and tail sections because it's lightweight and very strong.



Click for a larger image.



Click for a larger image.



This is the Apollo 18 command module that was built to go to the moon but because of budget cuts it didn't. It held three astronauts but would have been very cramped after looking inside it. The astronauts had about 210 cubic feet of habitable space, the rest of the inside was dedicated to control panels and displays. The name Apollo is derived from Greek, and it means 'destroyer'. According to historians, Apollo was a Roman god of light, music and poetry.



I had a hard time trying to get a decent picture with the reflection from the lights bouncing off the plastic that covers the spacecraft. The inside structure is made of sheet aluminum which is lightweight but very thin.



Everything that you see here are one-off pieces made just for the Apollo spacecraft. In other words you aren't going to the hardware store and buy anything that you see here.

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The machine work on everything that I could see was impressive and I would have loved to have made parts for anything NASA.



Note the part number or serial on the middle shaft and above that is what looks to be an ink stamp certifying the part passed Fluorescent Penetrant Inspection (FPI) which means it was checked for any imperfections or hairline cracks of any kind. FPI is used for material that isn't magnetic like aluminum or some stainless steels which I think those shafts are the latter. If they were made out of something magnetic like steel, then the inspection process would have been Magnetic Particle Inspection which checks for the same basic thing that FPI does but in a different way.


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