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A quarter-scale replica of the space shuttle Columbia hanging at Calgary International Airport could make its way to Downey, where it was constructed during the height of our nation’s space shuttle program.
Measuring nearly 30 feet long, 14 feet high and 19 feet wide, the model was constructed in the mid-1970s for engineers testing ground vibration’s effect on the space shuttle.
Built inside the hangar of Building 288 in Downey, the shuttle underwent nearly a dozen vibration tests before it was shipped to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.,, where twin rocket boosters were attached for additional tests, according to an article written by retired Boeing engineer Stan Barauskas in 2007.
After testing was completed in 1979, the model was categorized as a museum display artifact and in 2000 loaned to the SpacePort Museum inside Calgary International Airport, where it is currently suspended from the airport’s ceiling.
The airport plans to remove the shuttle sometime this year as part of renovations. It will be returned to the Johnson Space Center, which has to decide whether to showcase it itself or loan it elsewhere.
The Downey City Council on Tuesday is slated to consider formally requesting the shuttle replica from NASA. It’s unclear where the shuttle would be stored but in January the city applied for a $3 million federal loan to house its current 128-ft. space shuttle mock-up, which sits inside a tent outside the Columbia Memorial Space Center.
Dr. Valerie Neal, curator of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM), previously told the Aerospace Legacy Foundation that Downey “might be the eventual home for this incredible model if certain conditions are met.”
“[Please] be assured that future display of the model at Downey may be possible when (a) the artifact is transferred to NASM custody and (b) you have a museum-like facility open to the public,” Neal reportedly said in 2007, before the Columbia Memorial Space Center was built. “As the original home of the orbiters, Downey is certainly an appropriate location for Shuttle artifacts.”