|Randy Jepperson and Mark Daymont back in the day working a Falcon mission. (Left)|
Taylor Herring and Spencer Dauwalder, Falcon volunteers during an overnight camp. (Right)
Happy Birthday Falcon Simulator. A Fun Ship but What a Pain to Set Up and Take Down. And a Double Pain in the Neck With its Equipment.
Hello Space EdVenturers!
Last week, the CMSC's Facebook celebrated the USS Falcon. This week would have been the long gone simulator's 19th birthday. Only a small group of people worked the Falcon during its short life. I decided it was too much of a hassle to set up and take down for weekday private missions. Overnight camps were the Falcon's speciality. Late in the afternoons on any given Friday you would find a few of us in the school's cafeteria setting up the Falcon for camp. We'd corrall the Falcon's cabinets into a close circle, connect the computers and audio equipment, stretch the power cables, layout the planetarium Starlab dome, place sleeping pads on top of the cabinets so their sharp edges wouldn't pierce the dome fabric, then inflate the dome and struggle to pull the dome up and over the cabinets.
|The Falcon's equipment was kept in a large, wheeled cabinets seen on the right.|
The Control Room was outside the dome
The second dome would be inflated once the Bridge dome was connected and secure. A prayer circle was held in hopes Fortuna wouldn't interfere with our good intentions and the computers would run properly.
So often I'd be at my desk in the Briefing Room near the start of the Overnighter and be disturbed by someone from the Falcon coming in to tell me something was wrong with the ship's equipment. Mr. Schuler, Mrs. Houston, Mr. Daymont, and Josh Babb all could tell many stories about Falcon technical nightmares. But somehow, thanks to great patience and talent, we'd get through those missions.
|This is the inside of the Falcon. Computers were stored behind the black plastic. The printer was connected to the computer you see in the picture two photos above.|
Besides set up and take down, sound was the biggest problem for the Falcon. The thin fabric dome walls had zero sound insulation so noise from the Galileo was a constant bother. The Falcon staff also had to keep their discussions to a whisper to keep the Falconites from hearing them scheme and plot against them (as we all do even today in our control rooms).
|The Falcon, set up and ready to fly. One dome was the bridge of the ship. The other dome was used as a gathering point for discussions and scary away missions.|
The Falcon was originally built to be a Mars Rover simulator funded by Novell for one of our Summer EdVenture camps. The Mars simulation lasted a summer but never really took. I wasn't happy with it. In thinking what to do with the equipment I decided to create another simulator. I sent in a work order for the Falcon's cabinets, ordered new Hypercard software for the ship and imagineered the ship inside a dome. I took the old XCraft simulator from the Space Center's overnight camps in the mid 1990's as my inspiration. The Falcon would be a souped up XCraft. The rest is history.
The Falcon's success (and the extra money it brought in by increasing our overnight camp numbers) convinced me that a small permanent simulator was needed. That ship became today's Phoenix. Those who worked the Falcon were supportive of my decision. Some staff didn't support the idea. The Phoenix would occupy the inset wall bunks used by the staff for overnight camps. They loved their bunks.
Today the Space Center Falcon / Galileo sign at the entrance to the school cafeteria is all that is left of the Falcon.
The CMSC Celebrated the Falcon's Anniversary in a Facebook post:
Happy Birthday Falcon Simulator!By James Porter, CMSC Director
That's right, today the Falcon would have turned 19 and we recently decided to celebrate the birth/launch day of our ships. The Falcon was a unique ship that came about thanks to a grant from Novell Inc. and many donated hours of development from their employees. What made it especially unique is that it was housed in two inflatable planetariums. The computers were stored in rolling cabinets and with much care and time the domes were raised around them. The Falcon provided many unique experiences on the weekends for years until it was retired and from its ashes the Phoenix had risen. So happy birthday Falcon and thanks for all the great memories you helped create. As we gather on March 28th to celebrate past and future ships, we'll raise a glass (and maybe inflate a balloon) to pay tribute to a ship that died honorably.