One giant leap for Mary Rose as artefact is blasted into space

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A TUDOR artefact dragged up with the Mary Rose is to be blasted into outer space this evening.

A three-inch wooden ball from Henry VIII’s flagship is joining astronauts on the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavour.

The ball, called a parrel, was part of the mechanism used to raise sails up the masts on the famous warship, which sank in 1545 during the Battle of the Solent.

It lay at the bottom of the sea for centuries but today this small piece of history will enter the vast ocean of space.

The Mary Rose Trust presented the crew of the Atlantis Space Shuttle with the artefact when they visited Portsmouth last June.

Chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust John Lippiett said: ‘It was 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, and we are thrilled that she will be making history once more on the final mission for Endeavour.

‘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 tradition of taking items into space began with NASA’s first astronauts. During the last 50 years of space exploration, commemorative objects have flown to the moon’s surface and made repeated orbits of Earth.

The small wooden ball is not the first connection the Mary Rose has had with NASA – astronaut Michael Foale worked as a volunteer diver during the ship’s excavation from the Solent in 1982.

He went on to fly the space shuttle to the Russian space station Mir and the International Space Station.

Endeavour leaves Kennedy Space Centre in Houston at 8.47pm British time today.

Astronauts are on a 14-day mission to the International Space Station to deliver scientific equipment and supplies as well as conduct four space walks to maintain the station.

It is the space ship’s final mission after 19 years of service with NASA, during which time it has left Earth 25 times.

The orbiter is named after the Royal Navy’s HMS Endeavour, which Captain James Cook sailed on his voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand from 1769 to 1771.

The Mary Rose 500 Appeal is currently fundraising to secure the building of the new Mary Rose Museum to open in Autumn 2012.