Original Space Crafts and Probes on Display

It's as close to space as most people here at the California Science Centre in Los Angeles are ever going to get.

Visitors at the Air and Space exhibition are able to fully explore spacecrafts such as one of the original Apollo capsules that carried out missions in space for the U.S. between 1966 and 1975.

"The Air and Space Gallery is a wonderful collection of both of human piloted space craft like the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft and robotic space flight that have explored planets such as Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, " says exhibition curator, Dr. Kenneth Phillips.

"We have a number of objects in this Air and Space collection that are independently unique but also when you take them collectively they are like nothing else you would ever find, so if you look at the Apollo command module that we have, that's a flown Apollo command module. It's unique from every other Apollo command module in the fleet because it rendezvoused and docked with the Russians in orbit back in 1975 so there's a major piece of aerospace history associated with that vehicle," he adds.

Also waiting to be explored is the Gemini II space capsule that took the astronauts Dick Gordon and Pete Conrad into space on September 12th 1966 allowing them - and us - to get the first view of Earth as a sphere.

That mission was facilitated 5 years earlier by the Mercury Redstone II space capsule that on January 31st 1961 carried a 4 year-old chimpanzee named Ham into space for 16 minutes and 39 seconds - long enough to confirm that humans could follow suit.

Less than three months after the Mercury Redstone II mission, on May 5th 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space in a Mercury spacecraft launched on a Redstone rocket.

Entry to the California Science centre and its permanent exhibitions is free of charge. The centre says its mission is to inspire science learning using fun and memorable experiences.

"It's pretty amazing that you see these things in reality that you so far only see in pictures and only read about like Apollo 18 so it's amazing. You can see all the details on the spacecrafts and so on," says Daniel Fett, a computer science student from Germany.

Alongside crafts and equipment used in space, there's also Memorabilia from space itself - moon rock brought back by Dr Buzz Aldrin from the historic Apollo II moonwalk on July 20 1969.

Retiree, Barbara Holland from California used to work at the U.S. Department of Defence. She says she is amazed at how quickly space travel has developed.

"Well it's very interesting to me because I see how small they were in previous days and previous years. I can't believe how they have expanded from the small size they were when they first began the missions. I am just amazed that two people could sit in that seat for so long of a time and now it's huge! Now, they walk around in the air, they're going outside of the capsule and all of that. It's just amazing to see."

This is not the real Cassini spacecraft and Huygens probe. That's because the originals are currently busy sending back information from the planet Saturn and its largest moon, Titan. The ones seen here are full scale engineering models on loan to the California Science Centre from NASA.

This is the engineering model of the Viking 1 Lander - the first ever craft to land on Mars on July 20 1976. There's also a prototype of the Pioneer 10 space probe that was the first to cross the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter between July 1972 and February 1973.

And for those that fancy a look at something slightly more down to earth, the 'Air' section of the exhibition sports a collection of vintage aeroplanes.

There's a 1975 Northrop T-38 Talon jet - the first twin engine, high-altitude supersonic jet trainer and the Velie Moncoupe - one of the first planes ever built for private pilots between 1927 and 1929.

Finally in honour of the brothers that achieved the first successful controlled flight in an aircraft, the exhibition sports a full scale working replica of the 1902 Wright Glider.

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