It has been a very exciting few months here at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. We acquired a shuttle, voted for Growler, raised a pavilion and began celebrating our 30th anniversary as one of the finest museums in the best city in the world.
All this while, Exhibits has been hard at work caring for our valued collections. The Shuttle Pavilion’s opening afforded us an opportunity to speak with one of our heroes, Admiral Truly, about his personal collection, currently in Intrepid’s Collection Storage.
Admiral Truly is a retired Vice Admiral of the United States Navy, who began his career right here, aboard the USS Intrepid, flying F-8 Crusaders as a part of Fighter Squadron 33 (VF-33). After his prestigious naval career, Truly went on to work for NASA and in 1977, was chosen to be a part of the second crew of the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT’s) done by NASA to assess the functionality, design and stability of the shuttles. On September 13, 1977, Commander Joe Engle and Pilot Richard Truly were sitting in the cockpit of the Enterprise, ready to test her gliding capabilities. This was only the second time a free-flight had been tried and descending from an altitude of 26,000 feet was surely a terrifying and exhilarating experience.
Upon speaking to Admiral Truly, we discovered a helmet of his that we have in our collection is, in fact, the exact helmet he wore on those test flights of the Enterprise! This NASA-issued blue helmet seems like an unremarkable pilot’s helmet, bringing home the courageousness of the NASA ALT Pilots. Along with his helmet, we have Admiral Truly’s helmet liner and bag, together completing this unique set.
After testing out the Enterprise, Truly had the opportunity to make history again by acting as pilot aboard the Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) during the STS-2 mission, launched on November 12, 1981, marking the first time in history that a reusable spacecraft returned to space a second time. This was Truly’s first space flight and he would go on to fly one more mission, this time as Commander, of the STS-8 mission aboard the Shuttle Challenger (OV-099). In our collection is the very flight uniform Richard Truly wore aboard the Challenger during its flight in space, designed by NASA specifically for their mission.
Truly left NASA after the STS-8 mission to become the Navy’s first commander of the Naval Space Command yet returned in 1986 as NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Flight. His hard work, commitment and dedication endeared him those who flew all of NASA’s subsequent missions aboard the Atlantis (OV-104) and the Discovery (OV-103) and every crew from each mission presented him with posters from their missions, including photographs, the mission’s official patch, and a United States flag all flown in space.