Sunday, August 5, 2012

Approach and Landing Test project medallion from NASA MFA Office

This week’s artifact is a medallion and certificate that NASA’s Manned Flight Awareness Office issued to employees and contractors upon the successful conclusion of the space shuttle Approach and Landing Test (ALT) program in 1977.

These tests validated the aerodynamic characteristics of the space shuttle orbiter in a series of flights in conjunction with NASA’s Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA). The initial flights saw the prototype shuttle Enterprise carried on the SCA from takeoff to landing, but in the final five flights, Enterprise was released in mid-air to glide back to the runway at Edwards Air Force Base by herself.

The medallion itself is is 38 mm (1½″) across and made of very light metal; mostly aluminium I think. According to the text on the reverse, it contains metal taken from Enterpriseone source on the Internet states that the material was taken from the left wing.
The obverse bears a relief depiction of the ALT patch design. The reverse carries the message:
“Thank you for your contribution toward making the Approach and Landing Tests of the Space Shuttle Orbiter successful. We would like you to have this memento made, in part, of metal taken from the Enterprise.”

It also features facsimiles of the signatures of the four test pilots who flew Enterprise during the tests.

I obtained this medallion in its original plastic packaging and have removed it only to photograph. The relatively rough manufacture of the item is evident here.

The accompanying certificate measures 305 mm × 240 mm (12″ × 9½″) and is printed on card. It’s larger and printed on heavier stock than the Skylab and Apollo–Soyuz certificates in my collection.

It too carries a depiction of the program patch, along with a silhouette of the Enterprise separating from the SCA. As depicted, Enterprise is flying without her tailcone, the configuration used in the final two flights of the program. There’s space for the name of the recipient (which I've blurred out here for their privacy), a message of thanks, and facsimiles of the crew signatures.

The message reads:

“The crews of the Approach and Landing Test Program are pleased to present you with this medallion in appreciation of your contribution to the successful ALT flights of the space shuttle orbiter Enterprise”

At the bottom is a circle the size of the medallion, together with a printed version of the reverse of the medallion, in case the recipient wanted to affix theirs to the certificate itself.

The ALT program was important in ensuring that the space shuttle flew as well in practice as it did on paper, and turned theory into practice. With the program a resounding success, Enterprise moved to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsvile for vibration tests as work continued on preparing the space shuttle for service.

Copyright information: the medallion and certificate are works of NASA. As works of the United States federal government, they are in the public domain.

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