Astronauts fly the Mary Rose flag at museum

17/6/2011 SB''NASA Astronauts Dr Andrew Thomas and wife Dr Shannon Walker visit The Mary Rose construction site of the new museum building, Pictured with John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust''Picture: Paul Jacobs (112176-1)
17/6/2011 SB''NASA Astronauts Dr Andrew Thomas and wife Dr Shannon Walker visit The Mary Rose construction site of the new museum building, Pictured with John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust''Picture: Paul Jacobs (112176-1)

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ASTRONAUTS are used to being millions of miles off the ground, so scaling the steel shell of the new Mary Rose museum was no difficult task.

Husband-and-wife astronauts Andrew Thomas and Shannon Walker were invited to unveil a flag on top of the museum’s construction site in Portsmouth’s historic dockyard.

The new museum is starting to take shape, with a giant steel structure now rising from the dry dock where the hull of Henry VIII’s flagship sits.

Dr Thomas and Dr Walker are visiting the city as part of this summer’s festivities.

Last month, a wooden ball bearing from the Mary Rose was blasted into orbit on the Endeavour space shuttle.

Dr Thomas said: ‘When that wooden ball comes back it will have travelled 7,500,000 miles to get back here.

‘I wonder if the person who carved it would have ever thought it would make that journey into space. Like many people when I was growing up I made models of ships and the Mary Rose was one I laboured over.

‘I still have the model in a box at my home town in Adelaide in Australia. So it’s great for me to be able to see it. It’s wonderful.’

The new museum will open in autumn next year while the building itself will be completed in March.

Architect Chris Wilkinson said: ‘It could be best described as a jewellery box where the jewel is the Mary Rose. When designing the museum we believed the architecture should be of secondary importance.

‘So we designed it from the inside out with the Mary Rose in the middle.

‘The next stage is to get the roof done. We’re about halfway there now.’

The new museum has been designed to reflect the feel of being on board a ship.

Galleries will run the length of the ship at different levels and thousands of artefacts will go on display.