Exhibit and model makers of Marshall Space Flight Center telling story of NASA

The exhibit and model makers of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville are still telling the story of NASA in a very unique, hands-on way.

Posted: Jul 12, 2019 6:36 PM
Updated: Jul 12, 2019 7:49 PM

Next week, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission.

Of course, preparation for that started years earlier with ideas, drawings and calculations on paper. A handful of talented artists and technicians turned those ideas into exact scale replicas of the rockets and capsules that would launch humans on their greatest adventure.

The exhibit and model makers of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville are still telling the story of NASA in a very unique, hands-on way.

Inside a building on Redstone Arsenal is a Santa’s workshop of sorts that few people have ever seen. Millions have seen what they make at the exhibit and model shop, but few have seen how this creative crew shrinks a nearly 400-foot rocket into a desktop display or discovered why what they do is so important to NASA’s mission.

The manager of exhibits and artifacts, Todd Cannon, says an 11-member team of model makers, graphic designers and technicians can create anything from delicate mural-size wall coverings to sturdy hands-on exhibits and scale models.

"We’re a visual society,” he said. "So, having a model to demonstrate all of these different designs really ignites the imagination of the person you’re talking to.”

Inspiration is their stock in trade, firing up the next generation by creating traveling exhibits, museum displays, artwork and models.

“This is a great way for people to understand when we’re talking about a rocket that’s going to go to the moon, what does that look like?” Cannon said.

Trevor Bennett’s been building models professionally there for three years. He worked on a 150-scale model of the SLS. The detail is incredible and much of it is still done by hand.

“The eye wants to go to all the details and the excitement begins to build,” Bennett said. "As a modeler, we try to aim for accuracy that engineers notice.”

A modeler, Aaron Stanfield, is in his eleventh year there. Building models was a hobby until he heard about this place.

“I couldn’t believe this job existed,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. Somebody paid somebody to build models for NASA? So I had to have the job.”

He’s working on a scale model of the engine test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. After visiting the site, he uploaded photos and blueprints that he’s using to recreate the structure in plywood and plastic.

“Some of these models have been out here fifty years, and I hope my models are out here fifty years. We’ll see," Stanfield said.

Shari White manages this team. She describes their mission in just a few words.

“We help tell the story of NASA,” she said.

Designers and technicians can take a simple sketch, transfer it to a computer and create a hand-built exhibit.

“We’re the actual hands-on. You know, I can talk to you all day long and say ‘I build rockets, and I built this and I did that,’ but until you see it, you don’t know that that’s what’s actually going on,” White said.

A design artist, Rob Williams, says it’s rewarding work, showing people what NASA is doing.

“From paper to computer screen to in a lobby or in a school, or even in a museum, they get to see our work,” he said.

In addition to museums, their work is on display at trade shows, in office building lobbies, presidential boardrooms and executive offices.

Earlier this year, the Marshall Space Flight Center's director, Jody Singer, used a model in her office to show how the SLS works. Wernher von Braun was especially fond of these intricate reproductions.

“He had in his office at Marshall, you can even see in some of these pictures, there were always models of rockets behind his desk,” his daughter, Margrit von Braun, said.

She remembers her father’s office crammed with them.

"And one of them, I think they actually had a cutaway in the ceiling to show the Saturn V because it was too tall to fit in the regular room," she said.

Von Braun believed models helped engage the public in the space program, and he made sure he had plenty of them.

“Dr. von Braun was one of the ones who actually helped focus on getting the model shop started here,” Trevor Bennett said.

The processes may have changed with liquid PVC, 3D printers and computer-aided routers now working alongside old-school lathes and milling machines, but the mission of the team remains the same.

“We show them what the agency is doing, where it’s going, what we’re going to do, what we’re doing now, and I think that’s very important,” Rob Williams said.

Some of the new processes they're using out there, specialized software and 3D printing, are actually laying the groundwork for techniques that could one day be used to make tools and replacement parts aboard a remote space station on the moon or Mars.

Huntsville
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 65°
Florence
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 67°
Fayetteville
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 59°
Decatur
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 62°
Scottsboro
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 59°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 17952

Reported Deaths: 630
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2239116
Jefferson1837102
Montgomery171040
Tuscaloosa78315
Marshall6939
Franklin5567
Lee54833
Shelby51720
Tallapoosa42765
Butler41118
Chambers35525
Walker3542
Elmore3548
Madison3394
Baldwin2909
Morgan2801
Dallas2723
Etowah25711
DeKalb2483
Lowndes24612
Coffee2361
Sumter2247
Autauga2214
Houston2204
Bullock2095
Pike2030
Colbert1842
Hale1739
Russell1710
Marengo1706
Barbour1671
Lauderdale1642
Calhoun1603
Choctaw1538
Wilcox1487
Clarke1442
Cullman1430
Randolph1277
St. Clair1231
Marion12211
Pickens1164
Dale1150
Talladega1135
Limestone1060
Chilton1011
Greene944
Winston900
Macon824
Henry802
Covington801
Jackson782
Crenshaw753
Bibb751
Washington706
Escambia633
Blount621
Lawrence500
Geneva430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Monroe402
Perry390
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 22566

Reported Deaths: 364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Davidson504062
Shelby4943111
Trousdale13924
Rutherford119623
Sumner88145
Hamilton79415
Bledsoe6071
Williamson55210
Putnam4795
Robertson4653
Tipton4423
Out of TN4184
Lake4140
Wilson4078
Knox3755
Bedford2834
Montgomery2693
Rhea2100
Hardeman1960
Madison1752
Loudon1430
McMinn14114
Macon1363
Cheatham1230
Bradley1221
Fayette1152
Cumberland1121
Dickson1090
Unassigned920
Blount913
Maury890
Sevier812
Washington750
Coffee730
Wayne640
Gibson631
Monroe622
Sullivan602
Hickman580
Lauderdale561
Franklin531
Greene502
Dyer500
Marion401
Anderson401
DeKalb370
Hamblen362
Smith341
White330
Hawkins332
Lawrence310
Grundy311
Haywood312
Marshall311
Obion301
Henry300
Jefferson280
Carroll271
Overton260
Meigs260
Weakley260
Lincoln250
Warren230
Cannon210
Perry210
Cocke200
Carter191
Campbell181
Morgan170
Jackson170
Crockett162
Roane160
Polk160
Johnson160
Henderson150
Hardin152
Sequatchie150
Humphreys131
Fentress120
McNairy120
Chester120
Giles120
Scott120
Stewart110
Claiborne90
Houston80
Grainger80
Clay70
Benton71
Decatur50
Unicoi40
Union40
Van Buren40
Lewis30
Pickett30
Moore30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events