Assembly of boilerplate
Assembly of boilerplate "Little Joe" Mercury capsules, NASA Langley Research Center, 1959.

Real Space Capsule on School Playground

Field review by the editors.

Ophir, California

At the height of the Space Race, a number of American school playgrounds installed jungle gyms designed to resemble rockets and space capsules. Ophir Elementary did them all one better: it installed a real space capsule, a non-mission model used for testing in the early days of the Mercury missions.

The story is that Ophir's principal, Vernon Barnett, used his connections in the military to obtain the capsule for his school in 1969, arguing that it would be a link to science and history for the students. NASA agreed, although it might not have done so had it realized that its space hardware was destined for the school playground.

The old Mercury capsule, painted blue, has a couple of open doorways cut into its side, turning it into a kind of capsule hut. Some parents have fretted that the capsule could attract spiders and snakes, and when the playground updated its equipment in 1990 and again in 2005, there were fears that the capsule might be jettisoned. But the general consensus is that too many Ophir graduates have too many fond memories of the capsule to ever let it escape playground gravity.

Ophir Mercury capsule.
Ophir Mercury capsule.

Real Space Capsule on School Playground

Ophir Elementary School

Address:
1373 Lozanos Rd, Ophir, CA
Directions:
Ophir Elementary School. Capsule is on the south side of the school, in the school playground, back by the trees.
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August 20, 2019

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