Thronateeska opens a new exhibit - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Thronateeska opens a new exhibit

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A Thronateeska staff member explains the heat pipe technology to students from Thomasville Christian School A Thronateeska staff member explains the heat pipe technology to students from Thomasville Christian School
A display showing how heat pipe technology helped to keep Bob's candy canes fresh. A display showing how heat pipe technology helped to keep Bob's candy canes fresh.
A Thronateeska guide answers questions in the Air and Space exhibit. A Thronateeska guide answers questions in the Air and Space exhibit.
A model of the space shuttle.  Without heat pipe technology, astronauts could not survive the extremes of space. A model of the space shuttle. Without heat pipe technology, astronauts could not survive the extremes of space.

By Jay Polk - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – The space shuttle is often called the most complex flying machine ever made, but some of its technology has some practical applications here on Earth.

Some of them might surprise you.

Including one that helps make your holidays a little sweeter.

But what's sweet to six year old Clark Finger from Thomasville is the one half scale model of the plane the Wright Brothers flew in 1903.  If you ask him what his favorite part of the exhibit is, this is what he would tell you:  "well, I would have to admit the plane over my head."

The plane sits in the Air and Space exhibit at Thronateeska. And it highlights how far flight has come in a very short time. It was only 78 years between the first flight and the launching of the first space shuttle. But space flight isn't easy.

Tommy Gregors from the Thronateeska Heritage Center said, "one of the challenges of course when you go into space is the extreme temperatures."

Temperatures on the sunny side of the shuttle are well above the boiling point of water. While on the dark side temperatures are more than 400 degrees below zero. Without something to balance those temperature differences, space travelers could not survive. Enter this device.

"They use these gas filled tubes to balance that heat out so they can efficiently keep the shuttle at a constant temperature on both sides," he said.

It's called a heat pipe system and it makes the crew cabin habitable. But one day someone figured out how to take this practical device and sweeten it a little.

"Don Bravaldo was one of Bob's engineers and he was charged with the task of trying to maintain temperature and humidity levels in their warehouse," said Gregors.

After seeing an article about the heat pipe system, he had it installed in the old Bob's Candy warehouse in Albany. Not only did it keep the candy fresh, it had another side benefit as well.

Gregors said, "they were able to retrofit some existing heating and cooling units out there and had a huge savings on utility costs."

The same technology that allowed Bob's to make better candy canes came straight from outer space. But it's had other applications for life right here on the ground.

"It's been used in the Alaska pipeline, and many other...rail lines...many other applications where you might have extreme temperatures," said Gregors.

It's all a result of the technological achievement of space flight. And as that technology moves forward, it will take the kids of today in the years ahead.

If you want to see the new exhibit Thronateeska Heritage Center is open Thursday through Saturday between 10 and 4.

Annual memberships for a family are only $35.

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