Posts Tagged With: Astronauts


Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon is the new home of the Spruce Goose. We came to see it and we got oh, so much more. The building above houses the Goose. It’s impossible to frame a picture of this gigantic air boat.  I settled for sections of the Goose and resorting to old pictures of pictures. The building is filled with airplanes dwarfed by the Goose, all with interesting histories of their own.

From the farthest upstairs corner of the building,  I captured a portion of the fuselage with the cockpit and two engines visible on an out-of-sight wing.  The wide-angle isn’t terribly wide on my camera.

The Goose on its test run. It had to taxi at 95 mph before it could lift off.  Howard Hughes was the pilot. It lifted off and flew one mile, which was unplanned. Sadly, its one and only flight.

My photo of the tail.

An  old photo of the inside of the cockpit. The K/H-4 (the official name) was the idea of Henry Kaiser who partnered with the government and Hughes to make a plane big enough to carry 750 soldiers, a couple of tanks and other equipment to the war zone because our troop ships were getting badly torpedoed by the Japanese. The government couldn’t spare metals for this ship, so it had to be made from wood. Mostly light weight birch went into its construction, and only 1% spruce. But, it was labeled by the press and the name Spruce Goose stuck.

Hughes finished the air boat with his own money. The war ended before the air boat was completed. Hughes kept it in a specially built hangar tuned up and ready to go for 33 years at $1,000,000 a year. His colorful part in the design, and building of the Goose is well told in video’s and pictures in the museum. The video of moving the Goose from Southern California, taking it apart, shipping it to Portland and then lifting 259 power lines to get the super wide caravan to McMinnville is another fascinating video story.

I said there was oh, so much more. Aviation history,  starting with this replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying device clear through the modern space program,  is on display here through planes, photos, artifacts and historical monologues. The docents, some retired pilots, tell a few  hair-raising stories of their own.

A stunt plane hangs upside down from the ceiling.

Single person flyers were well represented here. This one with a rotary blade.

I liked the Great Lakes Baby and the Alley Cat. The double winged Baby could rise 2000 feet in five seconds. Cost in 1969? $750. I want one!

The Flying Tigers, the story of women wartime pilots, the WASPS, a Japanese Zero fuselage with 140 bullet holes in it. If you’ve heard of a plane, it’s most likely here.

The second building at Evergreen is an Imax Theatre that shows three major aviation films. We arrived at 9:00 a.m. and only completed one building by 11:00. We skipped the theatre and went to the Space building. After seeing the space museum at the Smithsonian, I wondered if this could compare. I haven’t been to D.C. for many years, so I can’t really answer that, but I can tell you this space museum was thorough. From the first Russian Sputnik (above replica), that isn’t much bigger than a beach ball with steel whiskers, the complete history is beautifully and fairly told from every Russian conquest, the virtual race, the mistakes, the secrecy, the surrender of Wernher von Braun and his scientists to an American Private, the atomic bomb… Stuff I never thought we would see is here.

A heat blackened recovery capsule.

Weightless dental work.

Cosmonauts at play. Besides Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Valentina Thereshkova the first woman in space, the Russian Cosmonauts hold many other space records. The United States was bent on surpassing their accomplishments and did. But, the space program is shared by 18 different countries and promotes cooperation and peace.

It was exciting to see a televised space launch with all of the breath holding expectancy we collectively felt when the launch really happened. The Mission Control Room replica is here. The computer filled a whole room and wasn’t as powerful as the common laptop we use today.

A replica of moon buggies and the vehicles that explored the surface of Mars; thirty-eight ply tires;  the Black Bird; the un-piloted drones, all here. And, astounding snippets of early thinkers who first envisioned that man would take wings to the moon. Make it a point to take your children to McMinnville and visit the Evergreen Complex of Museums. This summer, their fourth building will open. It is the only known building with a plane permanently implanted on the roof.  A water slide starts in the fuselage of the plane.

They grow wine grapes and hazelnuts on the grounds. We tasted their wine and bought a bottle of Spruce Goose Pinot Grigio.

For more pictures:

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West Point, since 911, is very secure. The only way to tour is through a tour company. The bus stops at the points of major interest. Here is the General McArthur building, joined with other famous buildings named after other famous generals. Significant here is this parade field where the cadets throw their hats up into the air after graduation. Local children are allowed to pick them up off the field as souvenirs. Often cadets put inspiring messages in the hats for the kids. Besides being a famous general, who got fired by Truman,  McArthur became the superintendent of West Point and is remembered here for the fact that he got rid of hazing.

The history of this site, which encompasses 13,000 acres, precedes the academy which opened in 1803. A fort stood at the strategic narrows of the Hudson River preventing the British from bringing supplies in. The young colonies blockaded that narrows with a chain pictured above. The chain was eventually melted down but they retained 13 links, one for each colony, which sits above the spot on the river today.

We visited the cemetery where so many famous people we know are buried. Above is Custer’s Stone. His wife fought for many years to get his remains moved to West Point after the disaster at The Little Big Horn. Congress finally relented. People put stones on graves here because they are more lasting than flowers. You can see them all over his headstone.

George Goethals wasn’t a famous general, but he was famous for successfully building the Panama Canal. West Point, until more recent times, only had one major, engineering, the only college of its kind. It turned out 45 per cent of the generals in World War II. West Point is about excellence, honor, duty, army, dedication and it takes a strong commitment to make it through the top college in the United States. (So voted this year.)

It now has 40 majors and its largest enrollment in history.

We visited the current chapel which has the largest organ in the world with over 23,000 pipes. From the small trumpet bells above to others that stand ten feet tall and 30 inches in diameter. This chapel has plaques on the wall commemorating some famous West Pointers. Hidden off in a corner is Benedict Arnold. It was controversial to place his plaque at all, as one can imagine.

There are famous dropouts as well.  But one, you’ve heard of Whistler’s Mother? Whistlers father has a story. He designed a bridge and drew two children on the bridge. His design was rejected. He was ordered to take them off the bridge. He erased and drew them under the bridge fishing. He was ordered to get rid of those kids. He drew two small tombstones on the banks. They decided he wasn’t West Point material.

West Point material could be seen about campus with parents, brothers, sisters, grandmas and so on. Family visiting week had just ended and cadets were happily showing their relatives about campus.

If you visit, the tour involves a good bit of walking. The West Point Museum is just off campus and is free. It has a history of war from the Roman times forward. And, it has a comprehensive collection of small weapons throughout the ages.

The rifle below is eight feet long.

As usual, too many pictures can be seen at the link below:

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