Photo left by Steve Shay, Photo right NASA
The Seattle Museum of Flight, West Seattle, just landed this Soyuz capsule, pictured left, in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. Simonyi, a Microsoft billionaire, flew in the craft from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station. He purchased it & it is on long-term-loan. Pictured right, the capsule is the center module.

Soyuz capsule lands inside Museum of Flight

A Russian space capsule landed inside the Seattle Museum of Flight last Friday, Feb. 10. Not to worry. It was a scheduled, and highly anticipated entry. A flatbed truck arrived from Chicago to the museum's new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery holding a crate containing the 3-ton prize, the Soyuz TMA-14 Descent Module. The capsule is on long-term-loan, purchased by Hungarian-born billionaire Simonyi, a key architect of Microsoft Word and Excel, and founder of Intentional Software. He has flown twice as a "space tourist" to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz. He was honored Dec. 8 at the gallery's official unveiling. He also appeared when the capsule arrived. Museum staff said he was thrilled. Now all can visit the craft.

The capsule seats the crew of three, and is the middle of three modules, all attached to make up the craft, like a giant ant, 23-and-a-half feet. It connects to the orbital module above that contains the bathroom, food supplies, and some stretching room. Below is the instrumentation and service module with those "wings", the solar array.

While space flight is serious business, one cannot ignore the whimsy of the capsule's emergency exit instructions consisting of cartoons and crudely-drawn lettering in Russian and English to assist a good Samaritan back on Earth to open the escape hatch if they happen to come by the craft.

On Simonyi's second outing into space, Expedition 19, he was launched in this capsule March 26, 2009, from Kazakhstan and docked on the International Space Station 2 days later, and 200 miles above the Earth. He returned on a different capsule. He ascended with cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, and astronaut Michael Barratt, a Washington State native. Seven months later, the capsule left the space station and parachuted to Earth, its landing softened by retro-rockets set off under the capsule just before it touched down.

Near the craft, in the gallery, is a large blue tape outline. That is where the Space Shuttle mockup simulator will be displayed. The simulator will arrive late spring or early summer, flown into Boeing Airport from Houston on the wide-boddied "Super Guppy". It is rumored that West Seattle High School alumni and Space Shuttle astronaut Gregory C. Johnson will pilot the massive plane. He now serves as Deputy of Aircraft Operations Division, Ellington Field, near Houston and Mission Control, and he is in charge of 32 airplanes including the Super Guppy.

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