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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – There’s a new mission for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Raise $70,000 to add a key piece of equipment in shuttle history to the display in Shuttle Park.

Officials at the center are planning the first major overhaul to Shuttle Park since crews installed the shuttle itself.

It will come with the acquisition of a new piece of shuttle history:  the Shuttle Trainer Aircraft or STA.

Dr. Deborah Barnhart
Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, talks about the new fundraising initiative. (Photo: Beth Jett/WHNT News 19)

“This is a Gulfstream2 aircraft,” said Dr. Deborah Barnhart, president of the USSRC.  “It was modified, both for its flight characteristics and avionics to replicate the way the shuttle lands, as you know the shuttle doesn’t land nice and smooth like our airliners land when we’re passengers on board.”

Center officials celebrated the 44th birthday for the center Monday, describing what’s coming along with the STA.  “Underneath the wings of the STA we’re going to make an amphitheater for teaching and training of our space camp trainees and for graduations,” said Barnhart.

In order to do it, though, the center must raise $70,000.

Center officials brought in one man who knows the STA intimately and used it many times: five-time shuttle astronaut Jim Halsell.

“Not as many astronauts flew that because it was focused on training the pilot astronauts how to land the space shuttle,” said Halsell.

He used the STA for his training to land a real shuttle three times.

And now he has put out a plea for people who enjoy the Space Center or have gone through Space Camp to make a donation to help the center raise another $50,000 as soon as possible to put the STA on display in Shuttle Park.

Right now, the STA is in a hangar in Birmingham.

If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so on the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s website.

Center officials are also hoping for lots of help from the newly formed Space Camp Alumni Advancement Board.  This is a new group to connect the 600,000 people who have been through Space Camp over the years.

Former Space Camper John Ramsey, who attended camp in 1986, 1987, and 1988, is the chairman of the group.