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Visitor Attractions: The Mary Rose to Sail Into Space?


During their visit to Portsmouth, the Atlantis Space Shuttle crew were presented with a piece of the Mary Rose, the flagship of King Henry VIII, with a view to sending it up to space on a future mission.

The presentation took place at a gala dinner Sunday 27th June, on board HMS Warrior 1860, another ship that accompanies the Mary Rose at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, who made the presentation to the astronauts, commented:

“It is really tremendous to have the opportunity to present this little piece of the Mary Rose to the visiting Shuttle crew to take back to Houston, in the hope that it will be taken into space on a future mission.

This parrel, in effect a wooden ball-bearing measuring some 3×3”, was part of the mechanism used to hoist the yards carrying the sails up the mast. It was therefore fundamental to the propulsion of this our first true warship.

The Mary Rose was as revolutionary in technological advances 500 years ago as the Space Shuttle was in the early 1980s. Both have helped pioneer exploration and advance the sciences. It is most appropriate to mark their place in history in this manner.”

The last Atlantis mission from which they have just returned, saw the crew take a 4-inch long wood sample of Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree. The piece from the original tree that supposedly inspired Newton’s theory of gravity, along with a picture of Newton, was taken into orbit by British-born astronaut Piers Sellers. The wood is part of the collection of the Royal Society archives in London, and will be returned there at the end of their tour. On a previous spaceflight, he took a commemorative medallion that the group presented to the physicist Stephen Hawking.

This won’t be the first time the Mary Rose has had links to space – Michael Foale CBE, the first Briton to perform a space walk and record holder for cumulative-time-in-space for a UK citizen, was a volunteer diver on the excavation of the Mary Rose in 1981. 

The Mary Rose sank in 1545 in the Battle of the Solent. She was raised in 1982 with her artefact collection of 19, 000 objects presenting a unique time capsule and one of the world’s most precious heritage icons. 

The Mary Rose 500 Appeal are currently fundraising to secure the building of the new Mary Rose Museum to open in 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 – visit

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