NASA’s recent success with the Mars Curiosity Rover landing was quite a thrill. While we’re all still cheering, I thought I’d show off some of my NASA-related items.
When the Space Shuttle program was winding down, I decided I wanted to have some souvenirs of its glory days. So I went on eBay and found the Hot Wheels NASA Space Shuttle Ground Support Hiway Hauler and the Matchbox NASA Tracking Vehicle.
The Hot Wheels Hiway Hauler evolved from the cab for the Road King that was made in 1973. The cab was used again on the American Hauler and the American Tipper in 1976. 1980’s Hiway Hauler was very similar to the American Hauler except that it had an extra set of wheels under an extended cargo box. Over the years, the Hiway Hauler’s cargo box has been adorned with many different company logos. This NASA version was released in 1988 as part of the Workhorses series.
1988 | 5144 | Hiway Hauler | white, “NASA Space Shuttle Ground Support” graphics | Malaysia | blackwalls
The 1982 Matchbox NASA Tracking Vehicle is a modification of the Motor Home from 1980. In addition to NASA tampo, the Tracking Vehicle was fitted with a chrome radar dish on the roof. The Tracking Vehicle also retained the motor home’s plastic opening door on the passenger side.
1982 | 54 | NASA Tracking Vehicle | white, side accents, clear windows | England | Superfast wheels
I have to brag about my personal connection to NASA. One of my brothers is an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Though he was never directly involved with the space shuttle program (he is a control systems expert), over the years he has hooked me up with some pretty cool souvenirs. The first space shuttle flight landed at Edwards, and the long landing strip there was used many times over the years as a back-up landing site when the primary site at Kennedy Space Center couldn’t be used. This button is from the 3rd space shuttle flight and the third mission for Columbia in 1982, which was scheduled to land at Edwards. As it turned out, the dry lake bed at Edwards was flooded, so the landing was diverted to White Sands New Mexico. This was the only time a shuttle landed at White Sands.
Here is another button commemorating the landing of STS-6 at Edwards in 1983. The sixth shuttle mission was the first flight of Challenger, and the first space shuttle mission to include a space walk.
Here are mission patch decals for the final 4 space shuttle flights.
To commemorate the final shuttle flight, I picked up the 2010 Matchbox Sky Busters Space Shuttle Atlantis. By the time Atlantis touched down on July 21, 2011, on its return from the final NASA Space Shuttle mission, it had travelled nearly 126,000,000 miles in space.
I’ve had the good fortune to tour the Dryden Flight Research facility a few times over the years. Though I imagine the security has gotten a little tighter over the years, I’ll never forget sitting in the control room while my brother and his colleagues conducted a test flight of the X-31. One of the coolest projects my brother worked on was the X-29, which was a radical design with forward-swept wings. According to NASA’s webpage on the project, “The concepts and technologies the fighter-size X-29 explored were the use of advanced composites in aircraft construction; variable camber wing surfaces; the unique forward-swept-wing and its thin supercritical airfoil; strake flaps; and a computerized fly-by-wire flight control system that overcomes the aircraft’s instability.” That last part is the stuff my brother worked on. Below are two pictures of me from November of 1985 standing in front of the X-29 in its hangar and flying (crashing) the X-29 flight simulator.
And, finally, here is a little die-cast model of the X-29, followed by a decal of NASA’s classic “meatball” logo.
I picked up a case of cars recently at a thrift store and inside I found this Peterbilt Tanker from the Space Mission 5-Pack that came out in 2000.
2000 | 56 | Peterbilt Tanker | blue, gray tank, “Test Mission” (from Space Mission 5-pack) | China