Human Spaceflight (Udvar-Hazy Center)

Go on this expedition to explore the Udvar-Hazy Center and find out about how humans made it into space.

Mercury capsule 15B Freedom 7 II

This Mercury capsule is the one of only two left showing the complete one-man spacecraft in its orbital configuration. The first American in space, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., hoped to fly this Mercury capsule on an orbital mission called Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10). After the success of MA-9, NASA decided to cancel MA-10 to concentrate on its next project, Gemini. The objective of the Mercury missions included placing a man in earth orbit and investigating human performance capabilities in space.

Alan B. Shepard, Jr., hoped to fly this Mercury capsule on orbital mission MA-10. Reflecting his hope of flying in space again, he had the name Freedom 7 II, in tribute to his 1961 capsule, painted on the spacecraft.


The Mercury Capsule 15B includes the silver and black retrorocket package used to slow the capsule for return to earth.

Capsule nose

The Mercury Capsule 15B includes the nose section containing the parachutes for the capsule’s return to earth.

Redstone missile

This is the Redstone, one of the most historically important developments in U.S. rocket technology. It was the U.S.'s first large-scale operational liquid-propellant missile and was modified as the Jupiter-C that placed the U.S.'s first artificial satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit in 1958. In 1961 the Mercury-Redstone rocket launched the first American into space, Alan B. Shepard, Jr. The Redstone made its first successful flight in 1953 and became operational in 1958.

Missile warhead

The Redstone had a range of 320-400 kilometers (200-250 miles) and could carry a conventional or nuclear warhead.


This is the Redstone rocket engine. It was the U.S.'s first operational large-scale rocket engine. Development began in 1950 by North American Aviation. The engine used liquid oxygen and alcohol and developed 75,000 pounds of thrust.

Tail unit

The tail unit of the Redstone included air rudders that served as aerodynamic controls.

Gemini VII

Frank Borman and James Lovell were launched into orbit aboard this spacecraft, Gemini VII, in 1965. Their primary mission was to show that humans could live in weightlessness for 14 days, a record that stood until 1970. Gemini VII also served as the target vehicle for Gemini VI-A, which carried out the world's first space rendezvous. These two achievements were critical steps on the road to the Apollo moon landing. This module is the only part of Gemini that returned to earth.

Look inside

This is a view of Frank Borman and James A. Lovell, Jr.’s seats inside the Gemini VII Capsule.

Upper section

The nose section of the Gemini VII Capsule was discarded during parachute deployment.

Lower section

Behind the heat shield was an adapter section containing propellants for the maneuvering thrusters, fuel cells for electric power, and retrorockets. It was jettisoned before reentry.

Apollo boilerplate command module

NASA built several “boilerplate” (BP) Apollo command modules for testing and to train astronauts and other mission crew members. This BP command module, BP 1102A, was initially used as the water egress trainer for all Apollo flights, including by the crew of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission. Later, it was fitted with actual or mock-up interior components to simulate the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft and the five-person rescue vehicle planned for emergency use developed during the Skylab programs.

Flotation collar

BP 1102A is displayed here with the flotation collar that was attached to the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia, when it landed in the ocean at the end of its mission. A large seven-person raft was fastened to the flotation collar.

Flotation bags

To avoid an increased possibility of flooding, the command module had to land in the ocean nose up. To turn the command module upright, three inflatable bags were installed. The flotation bags attached were used on the command module, Columbia.


BP 1102A is constructed of aluminum, with its sidewalls painted with a bronze epoxy paint to simulate the look of a real Apollo Command module after splashdown. BP 1102A was fitted with an actual Command Module hatch.

Mobile quarantine facility (MQF)

This was one of four built by NASA for astronauts returning from the moon to prevent the spread of lunar contagions. This MQF was used by Apollo 11 astronauts immediately after their return to Earth. They remained in it for 88 hours while the MQF was flown to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. They were allowed to emerge once scientists were sure they were not infected with "moon germs."

Home from home

A converted Airstream trailer, the MQF contained living and sleeping quarters, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

Air vents

Quarantine was assured by keeping the air pressure inside lower than the pressure outside and by filtering the air vented from the facility.

Saturn V model

This is a 1:48 scale model of a Saturn V rocket. Developed by NASA, the Saturn V rocket in July 1968 sent astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins on the historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Saturn Vs were used in the remaining six Apollo missions to the moon during 1969-1972 and to launch the Skylab Orbital Workshop into earth orbit in May 1973.

Instrument unit

The instrument unit guided the three-stage rocket from launch, to Earth orbit, and to the transfer from Earth orbit to lunar trajectory. Once on lunar trajectory, the Apollo guidance computer in the command module took over guidance and navigation functions.


For missions to the moon, the payload (from the instrument unit up) consisted of the lunar module, encased within a protective conical covering, the service module and the command module.

Launch escape system

At the top of Saturn V was the launch escape system, used only in an emergency and jettisoned once the rocket had ascended safely off the launch pad.

Apollo 15 spacesuit

This spacesuit was made for, and worn by James Irwin, lunar module pilot of the Apollo 15 mission that landed in July, 1971. This was the first mission to use the lunar roving vehicle. The spacesuit was designed to provide a life-sustaining environment during periods of extra vehicular activity or during unpressurized spacecraft operation. It optimized mobility and was designed to be worn with relative comfort for up to 115 hours in conjunction with the liquid cooling garment.


The locations of the zippers on Irwin’s spacesuit differ from earlier suits. Two zippers - one acting as a restraint and the other that is the pressure-sealing zipper - run from the upper front of the chest around the waist to the lower chest.


Convoluted joint sections of rubber were located in the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips and ankles. This enabled relatively easy movement while the suit was pressurized.

Life-support ports

The location of the communication and life-support ports differ from earlier spacesuits. When combined with the portable life support system and other components making up the extravehicular mobility unit, it all weighed approximately 185 pounds here on earth.


Discovery was the third Space Shuttle orbiter vehicle to fly in space. It entered service in 1984 and retired from spaceflight as the oldest and most accomplished orbiter. Discovery flew on 39 Earth-orbital missions, spent a total of 365 days in space, and traveled almost 240 million kilometers (150 million miles)--more than the other orbiters. It shuttled 184 men and women into space and back, many of whom flew more than once, for a record-setting total crew count of 251.

Engines and nozzles

NASA retained Discovery’s reusable main engines and removed its orbital maneuvering system engines because they were contaminated by toxic propellants. Two of the engine nozzles above are unflown engineering test units, but the one on the lower right flew fourteen times.

Thermal tiles

Reusable surface insulation protected the orbiter from the fierce heat of reentry. The surface of Discovery is covered with silica tiles.

Payload bay

The payload bay held communication satellites, the Hubble Space Telescope, Spacelab, or International Space Station elements.


This jointed robotic arm, known as the Canadarm or Remote Manipulator System arm was used to move payloads and position astronauts working outside the Space Shuttle or International Space Station. This Canadarm flew on 15 missions and four orbiters from 1994 through 2011, including Discovery’s last six missions, all to the International Space Station.


Attached to the payload bay sill of the shuttle and remotely operated by an astronaut at a control station inside the spacecraft. Television cameras mounted on the arm assist the operator in precisely controlling its movements.


The arm has shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints plus an end effector that serves as a grappling hand. The Canadarm also has an attachment that could connect to an adjustable foot restraint, which gave astronauts a portable extravehicular activity workstation.


The Canadian Space Agency supplied robotic arms for the shuttle and space station programs. The exterior materials of the Canadarm include Dacron scrim cloth, Beta cloth, and velcro.

Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy CenterSmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

Your next adventure

Find out more stories about flight and space on the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum page.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps