Photos by Steve Shay
The public is invited to the grand opening of the Space Shuttle Trainer Exhibit at the Museum of Flight Saturday, Nov. 8. A ceremony is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Cost is price of general museum admission. SLIDESHOW: Click on photo above for more.

SLIDESHOW: Sneak peak of Museum of Flight's Space Shuttle trainer; Exhibit opens to public Saturday

SLIDESHOW: Click on photo for more

The public is invited to the grand opening of the Space Shuttle Trainer Exhibit at the Museum of Flight Saturday. A ceremony is scheduled for 11:00 a.m.

Museum staff promises that kids and other space enthusiasts will experience a "wow factor" upon entering the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at first sight of the nose cone of the trainer. Some say the shape and paint scheme evoke a smiling face with arms extended. The vehicle measures 122 feet in length.

The wooden, flightless bird used by all Space Shuttle astronauts in Houston to train, was the museum's consolation prize as it tried for an actual retired Shuttle. There were four such vehicles, and with nearly 30 museums and airports competing, Seattle was overlooked.

However, the museum, and local politicians and astronauts have publicly expressed delight with the acquisition pointing out that the exhibit is much more interactive than the retired shuttles as the public can climb aboard and have a look around.

Visitors can access the trainer's 60-foot payload bay. You can check out the circular hatch into the crew compartment. Some lucky kids attending Saturday's opening will be allowed to climb inside, based on a lottery system beginning at about 10:45 a.m. The hatch is small and entry is awkward, so the museum is promoting tours your family can take in the future by signing up now. It is called the "crew compartment experience", an hour-long tour and you can also build a computer arm. For tickets, contact the museum.

It's going to be a great celebration," said Doug King, museum President and CEO of the grand opening. He said Gov. Gregoire will attend as she was supportive of the exhibit, and possibly the newly elected governor. Also attending, Lori Beth Garver, Deputy Administrator of NASA, the lead civil space policy advisor for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and led the agency review team for NASA during the post-election transition. She was instrumental in Seattle getting the trainer.

Also attending the ceremony, Washington-born astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, King's predecessor, astronaut Wendy Lawrence, and Charles Simonyi, Microsoft billionaire who helped fund the museum. The entire exhibit, including transporting the trainer, cost $13 million.

"The exciting thing is this is a lot like what happened in the aviation industry in the 1930's," said King. "Before Charles Lindberg, people who flew in airplanes were called 'daredevils'. After Lindberg they were called 'passengers'. So we're making a transition here from when highly-selected 'Right Stuff' kind of people went to space (...) to tourists, hotel operators, engineers, people mining asteroids. A lot of that is going to happen right here in Seattle."

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Cost is price of museum admission.

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