Space Center Houston opens SCA Independence exhibit
HOUSTON — The operators of Space Center Houston unveiled their new exhibit honoring the NASA 905 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft’s long history of supporting NASA’s 30 year Space Shuttle Program. The event was held on Saturday, Jan. 23, at what has been dubbed “Independence Plaza.” The occasion was marked with fireworks, ReMax skydivers, astronauts, and hands-on activities.
NASA 905 was opened to the public starting at 8:25 a.m. CST, most of whom had likely never been inside one of NASA’s aircraft before – let alone one with a “high-fidelity shuttle replica” riding atop it. Some in the audience, however, had extensive experiences with both the modified 747s and the orbiters that they carried.
In attendance were NASA’s current Administrator Charles Bolden and Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, both of whom are former shuttle astronauts.
The presentation of colors was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard. The honor of singing the National Anthem fell to someone with a personal connection to the shuttle program. Laura Husband, the daughter of Col. Rick Husband, the commander of STS-107, who, along with his six other crew mates, lost their lives during the final flight of Columbia in 2003.
As Husband sang, the ReMax skydivers descended, carrying the U.S. Space Center Houston and NASA flags. This was followed shortly thereafter by Space Center Houston’s President and CEO, Richard Allen, noted what went into producing Independence Plaza.
Also in attendance was U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, who presented Space Center Houston with a flag that was flown over the United States Capitol building.
The event was kicked off by a “T-minus countdown” which was conducted by Bolden, who provided praise for the new exhibit. Shortly thereafter, fireworks erupted – signaling the opening of the exhibit to the public.
Mounted to the top of NASA 905 is the shuttle replica known as “Independence”. The model once resided at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
In 2011, it was announced where the three remaining shuttle orbiters would go at the end of the Space Shuttle Program – Johnson Space Center was not selected. Discovery went to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Atlantis to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, and Endeavour to the California Science Center.
Space Center Houston was not left out; however, they did receive one of the two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (the other, NASA 911, is at Joe Davies Heritage Airpark, but it still remains the property of NASA). The Visitor Complex transferred ownership of the replica, formerly known as Explorer, to Space Center Houston.
Video courtesy of Astro95 Media
Juan was born in California but raised in South Texas (Brownsville). He is a veteran of Desert Storm (1991) and current Army Reservist assigned to Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. De La Garza has proven his motivation and dedication of his passion in aviation, spaceflight advocacy and local events through still photography. De La Garza photographed SCA905's move from Ellington Airport to Space Center Houston as part of The Rise of INDEPENDENCE event which saw the shuttle replica placed atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on Aug. 14, 2014. De La Garza also serves as a contributor to Astro95 Media.