Endeavour Space Shuttle prepares to launch precious Mary Rose artefact into outer space

By Richard Moss | 28 April 2011
a photo of the Endeavour astronauts in orange space suits
The STS-134 crew portrait (clockwise): NASA astronauts Mark Kelly (bottom center), commander; Gregory H Johnson, pilot; Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency's Roberto Vittori© NASA
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s audacious plan to send the Mary Rose – or at least part of it – into outer space should come to fruition this Friday (April 29 2011) when NASA launches the Endeavour space shuttle mission.

Endeavour is targeted to launch on its final flight at 3.47pm EDT (8.47 pm BST) for a 14-day mission to the International Space Station.

Accompanying the crew of six astronauts and an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, using the station’s external environment as a platform to expand our knowledge of the universe, will be a humble three-inch wooden ball which sank during the Battle of the Solent. 

The ball, called a "parrel," was part of the mechanism used to raise sails up the masts. It was presented to the Endeavour crew at a gala dinner at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in June 2010.

“The Mary Rose was as revolutionary in technological advances 500 years ago as the Space Shuttle was in the early 1980s,” said John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust.

a photo of a wooden ball with a hole through it
The parrel from the Mary Rose© Mary Rose Trust
“Both have helped pioneer exploration and advance the sciences. It is most appropriate to mark their place in history in this manner. We are thrilled that she will be making history once more on the final mission for Endeavour.”

Raised in 1982 with her artefact collection of 19,000 objects, the Mary Rose is a unique time capsule and one of the world’s most precious heritage icons.

Similarly, the final flight of Endeavour marks the end of an iconic era in US-led space exploration. Born out of the tragedy of Challenger STS 51L the Endeavour ends its service with 25 missions.

The parrel will be continuing a tradition of taking items into orbit which began with NASA's first astronauts.

A variety of commemorative objects have flown to the moon's surface and made repeated orbits of Earth, returning later to inspire those who could not make the trip themselves and remind astronauts of their accomplishments.

The Mary Rose 500 Appeal is currently fundraising to secure the building of the new Mary Rose Museum to open in Autumn 2012, which will reunite the hull with her artefacts and ensure completion of the conservation in 2016 providing visitors with new and unique views of the vessel.

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