July 19, 2024

Brighton Journal

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A replica of the space shuttle lands in St. Cloud

A replica of the space shuttle lands in St. Cloud

street. CLOUD — A version of the space shuttle owned by a St. Cloud native landed here this weekend after a weeklong flight from Florida to Minnesota.

The journey took the 25-ton fuselage on winding roads and often through small towns while each state’s own forces drove in front of and behind the transport vehicle due to its massive size.

“Each state needs their own permits, and then you have to get them to coordinate with each other,” shuttle owner Felicity June Pederson said. “There are a lot of things that could go wrong, so you feel happy when every one of them goes right.”

The shuttle model, called “Inspiration,” crossed into Minnesota just after midnight Saturday and arrived in St. Cloud a few hours later. On Monday, a crew from a local company began welding a platform to store the shuttle while Pederson and others plan for its future.

“Our first job is to define what this is and then start presenting it to partners, perhaps larger companies here in Minnesota, especially if they are involved in the aviation industry,” Pederson said.

Pederson is a graduate of St. Cloud Apollo High School, which has a NASA training capsule on its campus. He is the founder of the LVX system, which has a patent for visible light communications, something he worked on with NASA. He and his wife, Erin, spend time in both Florida and Minnesota.

In 2015, they took over full-size ownership Shuttle versionWhich had fallen into a state of ruin and was on the verge of being destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to restore it.

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“I think this is one of the most amazing donations I’ve ever made,” said Pederson, who hopes the shuttle will be permanently displayed in a large dome as part of the new Inspiration Space Port educational complex. Display other spacecraft, host speakers and exhibits related to space travel, and sell tickets for virtual tours of outer space.

NASA’s Space Shuttle program ended in 2011 with more than 130 missions flown. Two missions witnessed great grief: the Columbia shuttle was destroyed on atmospheric re-entry, and the Challenger crashed after launch, both accidents killing seven crew members.

But other missions have awed millions of people across the country, especially Generation X and Millennials who grew up with dreams of visiting space. DFL State Sen. Aric Putnam, a local supporter of the project, hopes to bring that joy and wonder to new generations.

“I am very happy about the opportunity to inspire our young people to be more ambitious and have big ideas and great hope,” he said.

Other shuttles that saw outer space are now on display on the coasts: the shuttle Discovery is in Washington, D.C., the shuttle Atlantis is at Kennedy Space Center, and the shuttle Endeavor is in Los Angeles. The Enterprise, a prototype orbiter that never flew but paved the way for the shuttle program, is on display in New York. Another replica, called Independence, is on display atop a shuttle carrier plane in Houston.

Jim Pankey, a Minnesota native and former Florida aviation journalist, said Pederson’s shuttle version was built as a tourist attraction by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in the early 1990s.

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“This attraction opened outside of the US Astronaut Hall of Fame. It was originally called Shuttle to Tomorrow and it was basically a theater where you could walk into the cargo area and… put on these headphones and watch a movie,” Pankey said Monday.

After Pederson acquired the shuttle model, it was moved to the shuttle landing facility now used by the Florida government space agency, which works with commercial space companies such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Last fall, Space Florida informed Pederson that it needed to move the shuttle as quickly as possible to make room for commercial expansion, prompting Pederson to move the giant shuttle to his hometown. People can follow the quest in “Inspiration Space Port ISP” Facebook page.

“I think this is a great opportunity for St. Cloud and all of Minnesota to display a life-sized shuttle model like this,” Pankey said. “Even if he never flies into space, I guarantee he will still live up to his name of ‘inspiration’ to anyone who sees him and learns more about the space program.”