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Dec 20, 2013 12:08 AM by Sam Salzwedel

NASA ship parked in Tucson

TUCSON - A NASA spaceship is parked at the Pima Air and Space Museum until January 2.

A replica of the Orion crew module stopped in Tucson on its way to San Diego.

Steven Eiselin is studying computer science and math at the University of Arizona. He waited more than an hour for the truck to arrive at the museum.

"Even though it isn't the real thing, it's the representation of a very, very real, very, very advanced spacecraft," Eiselin said, "that's going to be the next generation of American space flight. It's exciting stuff."

The Orion is NASA's next spacecraft which is replacing the retired shuttle program.

Barbara Zelon is the Orion Communications Manager and talked to about a dozen enthusiastic people who waited for the truck.

"It satisfies human curiosity," she said. "It satisfies our need for knowledge. We go out and find more about our earth, more about beyond earth."

The model in Tucson is for water experiments. NASA will use it to test recovery methods with the United States Navy in the Pacific Ocean.

Tatiana Jorgenson brought her nephew to Pima Air and Space Museum Thursday. Then she heard about the spacecraft and decided to stay longer.

"It amazes me how anybody can go up in a confined space and stay up there," Jorgenson said. "So astronauts, things like that have always amazed me, fascinated me."

Visitors who want to see the model can get in the museum free on Friday morning from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. if they use the word "splashdown."

The museum hopes the replica will bring extra visitors. It already expects about 1,000 people per day between Christmas and New Year's Day.

The University of Arizona is NASA's biggest contractor in Arizona. NASA gave the school $49.7 million in contracts in 2010, $49.8 in 2011 and $54.3 million in 2012, according to fedspending.org.

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