NASA retirees build space simulator in Hemphill for students

NASA retirees build space simulator in Hemphill for students
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

HEMPHILL, TX (KTRE) - Two NASA retirees are joining forces to make a space shuttle simulator that will help educate East Texas youth. Although the project is in the beginning phase, it will soon turn into a version of a space shuttle flight deck simulator.

James Dean and Frank Hughes decided to collaborate on this project to take kids out of this worldin the most educational way.

"We've talked about how he'll create one of these devices," Hughes said. "We'll install it here at the Patricia Huffman Smith Columbia museum, and we'll have high school students come here to learn what's going on. On top of that, they'll become educated enough that they can become the instructors."

"I wanted to be able to instill that excitement factor in kids, that if they wanted to work in the space program they can, because if I can do it, you can do it," Dean said.

It was as if the stars all aligned the way these two caught up.

"My wife was carrying her luggage on an elevator, and on the elevator was Jim's wife," Hughes said. "They both figured out that their husbands worked for NASA, and then I got introduced."

Now the two NASA retirees want to give East Texas youth a taste of what it's like to launch into space.

"This will be a static display really to show what the interior of the space shuttle flight deck looks like," Dean said. "It'll be full size, and a lot of it is operational."

"It'll allow you to actually imagine what it's like to be in a space flight, but on top of that you really begin to gain the skills that you can actually do it," Hughes said.

This simulator will be fully equipped and functional.

"We use all the real materials, it's not a bunch of stuff made up for kids," Dean said. "I've got full access to the check list, and everything else that was used by the astronauts in training for a space shuttle mission."

Dean invested about $20,000 of his own money into this project. It is expected to be complete in the upcoming weeks, and can be seen at the Patricia Huffman Smith Columbia museum in Hemphill in the upcoming month.

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