NASA Astronauts visit North Barrule

July 4 2011 - Independence Day in the USA - and four of the crew of the Space Shuttle "Discovery" are pictured on North Barrule at the memorial to the 31 Americans who were killed in the crash of B-17G Flying Fortress 43-38856 on April 23 1945

This report is taken from the December 2011 issue of "Station Flight", the MAPS newsletter. It is written by Ivor Ramsden.

Being involved with the museum has resulted in some memorable experiences for me. I have met people who you normally read about in history books; people who from boyhood I have considered to be gods – Jeffrey Quill and Alex Henshaw spring instantly to mind, being Spitfire test pilots, then there was Eric Brown who has got the most incredible number of aircraft types, both allied and enemy, in his log books. There was Johnny Johnson the fighter ace and John Moffatt  who flew one of the Fairey Swordfish which crippled the Bismarck. Coming up to date there were the Rutan brothers, who are still pushing the boundaries of what man can do in flight. But on 4th July 2011 I experienced something which I am certain will always be the pinnacle of my experiences with MAPS. That day was the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in the Isle of Man; it also happened to be American Independence Day but, most significantly for me, it was  the day when four American astronauts, the crew of the Space Shuttle “Discovery”, went up North Barrule to visit the B-17 crash site. The Island has a close link with one of the crew, Nicole Stott, who is married to a Manxman, Chris, and it was Chris who contacted me in March when he told me that the crew would be visiting the Island for Tynwald Day and they had expressed a wish to visit the crash site. I have no idea how they came to know about the crash but I was  very  impressed that they did.   Philip Pain took on  the task of setting things in motion to get them to the site on the afternoon of July 4th. We were helped by members of the Isle of Man Four Wheel Drive Club who, using vehicles supplied by Land-Rover and Mitsubishi dealer Mylchreest's Motors, safely carried the crew and their families to and from the site. The new American flag, so kindly provided by the North American Manx Association, and which has flown over the Capitol in Washington DC, was raised by a MAPS advance party. Words of commemoration were spoken and there was a moment’s silence. It was a deep silence, with no sound but the gentle breeze.

Some members of the Shuttle crew and also their families are serving members of the military so this was the first time since 1945 that any United States Air Force personnel have been to the site. The whole experience was summed up when one of the crew said to me; “This is the most unforgettable Independence Day ever.” A powerful statement, coming as it did, from a man who has walked in space.