Airstream Travel Trailers and The NASA Space Program
In 1984, NASA began transporting shuttle crew members from the Operations and Checkout Building to the shuttle launch pad in a converted 1983 Airstream Excella motor-home.
The Airstream NASA Astrovan
The NASA transport vehicle, known as the Astrovan, has averaged 1000 miles per year shuttling crew members at Florida’s Kennedy Space Station to launch dress rehearsals, to the launch pad and back to headquarters after returning from space missions.
The Astrovan conversion, completed by Lockheed Martin and Airstream, included accommodations for the liquid oxygen dispensers used to cool the astronaut’s spacesuits. Modifications to the vehicle were minimal and many of Airstream’s original standard features remain. The Astrovan is considered a tradition among shuttle crew members and attempts to replace or upgrade the vehicle over the past 24 years have been negated by popular vote. According to Ronnie King, one of five drivers of the NASA Astrovan, attempts to upgrade the vehicle were always dismissed in light of its historical and traditional value.
Minor décor upgrades include new curtains and blinds. The original 80s décor is apparent in the navy blue upholstered benches that seat crew members during transport, and the dark paneled walls of the interior. The Airstream’s signature aluminum exterior remains virtually unchanged, adorned with only thin red, white and blue lines and the NASA emblem.
Mobile Quarantine Facility
Airstream, in business since 1936, first partnered with NASA space programs during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Crew members returning from the first mission were quarantined in a modified Airstream trailer dubbed the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) until it could be ascertained that crew members weren’t carrying lunar pathogens or other microbes picked up during the space mission. Four modified Airstream MQFs were used by NASA during the first four Apollo missions. Following the Apollo 14 mission, officials concluded that there was no life on the moon and quarantine measures were deemed unnecessary.
In contrast to the dated interiors of the NASA Astrovan, modern Airstream travel trailers and touring coaches feature modern amenities in sleek designs. The collaboration between Airstream and designer Christopher C. Deam produced Airstream International Sterling, which features Airstream’s signature “minimalist design with maximum functionality” in aluminum and stainless steel. The Sterling is available in two color-scheme choices, Arctic Dijon and Obsidian Violet.
In addition to the Airstream International Sterling, Airstream produces five more travel trailer models, including Sport, Flying Cloud, International, Classic and Eddie Bauer. Airstream’s touring coaches, Avenue and Interstate, also provide luxury comfort and full amenities including energy-efficient appliances and a myriad of design choices.