'Starship 2040' exhibit launches campaign to share NASA's futuristic ambitions

May 09, 2001

Should NASA's Starship 2040 touch down in coming months at a university campus or community center near you, don't expect a thunderous descent from the heavens. This high-tech "spacecraft" hitches a ride inside an Earthbound tractor and trailer rig, after all.

But space transportation officials from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are confident the Starship 2040 experience will send the imaginations of tens of thousands of visitors a year thundering straight into orbit.

Developed at the Marshall Center and housed in a 48-foot (14.6-meter) trailer, the traveling exhibit is designed to share NASA's vision of what commercial spaceflight might be like 40 years from now. Visitors board the "ship" and move through a fully realized mock-up of the control, passenger and engineering compartments, where they'll gain insight into technologies that eventually will make such an out-of-this-world experience as routine as air travel.

"The Starship 2040 exhibit will inform and excite visitors of all ages about possible future technologies and commercial opportunities in space," says Dr. Row Rogacki, director of Space Transportation at the Marshall Center. "More importantly, Starship 2040 illustrates real-world technology challenges now being explored by NASA and our partners in industry, academia and government."

All the innovations suggested aboard the exhibit -- automated vehicle health monitoring systems, high-energy propulsion drive, navigational aids and emergency and safety systems -- are based on concepts and technologies now being studied at NASA Centers and partner institutions around the nation.

"This isn't just science fiction," Rogacki says. "We intend to make a future much like the one demonstrated by Starship 2040 a reality."

Audio effects -- engine noises, computer and crew voices -- filter down from hidden speakers inside the exhibit, adding to the realistic ambience of the experience.

Starship 2040 recently visited Chicago for the annual National Manufacturing Week trade show and conducted a three-city tour through Middle Tennessee. In coming weeks, it travels to Washington D.C., as part of NASA's annual Turning Goals into Reality conference (May 16-18) and will make public stops at visitor centers at NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Md., (May 19-21) and NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., (May 23-25). Future state tours are in the works.

NASA and public officials are particularly excited by the interest and enthusiasm being shown by school-age children, many of whom visit the exhibit as part of class field trips.

"NASA's Starship 2040 exhibit is a wonderful educational tool for our children, and instills in them the importance of a math and science education highly sought after by today's high-tech job market," says U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee's 6th District. Gordon is the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, which has oversight and legislative jurisdiction over the space agency.

"Space exploration presents a unique fascination to millions," agrees U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama's 4th District, vice-chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Administration/Housing & Urban Development.

"Allowing communities an in-depth look at what we're doing builds support in our worthwhile efforts," Aderholt adds. "Starship 2040 provides a unique opportunity to show the nation what we are doing, and can still dream to do."

For more information about the Starship 2040 exhibit and a complete listing of upcoming tour dates, visit http://www.Starship2040.com.
NASA is the nation's premier agency for development of Space Transportation systems, including future-generation reusable launch vehicles. Such systems -- the keys to a real Starship 2040 -- require revolutionary advances in critical aerospace technologies, from thermal, magnetic, chemical and propellantless propulsion systems to new energy sources such as space solar power or antimatter propulsion.

These and other advances are now being studied, developed and tested at NASA field centers and partner institutions all over the nation. NASA and its partners also seek innovative materials and processes technologies, investigating ways to develop safer, stronger and more durable engines, vehicles, structures and components to handle the immense power of these futuristic propulsion systems. The Marshall Center leads all these efforts, aimed at enabling dramatic improvements in the safety, cost and reliability of future space transportation systems. For more information about NASA Space Transportation Systems, visit http://www.highway2space.com.

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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