Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Kennedy Space Center

Thursday to Saturday, December 6 - 9
A few days ago we decided to buy some online tickets to the Kennedy Space Center. A one-day pass is $57/adult or $50 Senior. Hmm, kinda pricey and what if we couldn't see it all in one day? So, we sprung for the multi-day pass (actually an annual membership) for $82/adult, plus they give you one free parking pass each (value $10 each), so it seemed like the right choice to go with the multi-day pass. Turns out it was a good choice cause there is NO WAY you can see everything in one day or even two. We spent THREE full days there!

A mural of the International Space Station and the flags of the 15 countries that participate in it.

Every day they have an astronaut speak. Anna Fisher is a medical doctor that went up on Shuttle Mission 51. She was a Mission Specialist responsible for operating the robotic arm (Canadarm).

Ms Fisher has recently retired from NASA after a 36 year career. She had a very interesting presentation about her personal life and her NASA career. Very cool and an inspiration to young people.

We boarded a bus that took us over to the launch pads and the Apollo/Saturn V exhibit building. We find bus tour guides a bit hit and miss. Our fist fellow was nice enough but he wanted to tell us more about himself than the points of interest. We went back on the tour bus Saturday and the driver was VERY good.

This is the track the crawler uses to haul assembled spacecraft from the Assembly building to the launch pad. the river stone is imported from another state (sorry, can't recall where) and is meant to crumble under the weight of the crawler. It gives the spacecraft a nice smooth ride.

Just one corner of the crawler they use to transport spacecraft. Top speed....1 MPH loaded, 2 MPH empty! Each of those cleats that make up the crawler tread weighs over a ton.

The crawler makes its way under this huge pad and the spacecraft goes on top of it. This is HUGE stuff. Unbelievable weights.

The Assembly building where they put spacecraft and rockets together. This place is huge! The American flag on the side of the building is 21 stories high.

Those gray doors are the largest in the world. They open sequentially to the height required.

Inside they are assembling the launch tower for the new launch pad.

Space X is one of the contractors that is leasing NASA facilities to launch their rockets

The new launchpad they are preparing for the new series of manned spacecraft that Space X will launch. They have a twenty year lease on this pad.

Another launchpad being renovated. The launch assembly is being worked on the the Assembly building.

The escape rocket that would attach to the spaceship and could fire to remove the manned spaceship from harm if there was a problem on the launchpad.

One of the 6000 alligators that call the Kennedy Space Center home. We saw a half dozen on our bus tour.
Space X will assemble their manned rockets in the building on the right and roll it up the hill to the launch pad. Private industry seems to do things simpler and cheaper than a government agency. Hmmm!

We entered the Apollo/Saturn V building and saw some video to introduce us to the moon missions.

Mission Control for the Apollo missions. This was not a mockup but the real deal control consoles.

The business end of the huge Saturn V rocket.

The Lunar Lander.....

.......and Neil Armstrong. If you are a conspiracy theorist....this is where they filmed the walk on the moon!

This is the Apollo 14 Command Module. See the burn marks on the lower right rim? 

The Command Module with the escape rocket attached.

The components that make up a moon rocket.

The crew shuttle. It took astronauts out to the launch pad.

Touching a moon rock. This is the real thing!

Fuel tank.

Rocket engines are amazing, burning liquid hydrogen and oxygen and generating immense power.

Wheel on a lunar rover. A screen material covering a rubber type frame.

The lunar rover. This one obviously hasn't been to the moon as they had to leave the rovers behind on the surface.

Here's one of those crawler cleats. There are 57 of these that make up one tread. There are eight treads on the crawler.

A model of the crawler. It weighs 6 million pounds and can carry 12 million pounds. Wow!
The Apollo/Saturn V exhibits were amazing. The Apollo era was very much in the news as I was growing up. We followed the moon exploration closely while I was in school.

We headed back to the main visitor center. Thursday was a long day, spending the full day over at the Apollo exhibits and touring the facility. Friday we were back and started out visiting the Atlantis exhibit.
The booster rockets and external fuel tank that was attached to the space shuttle to launch it. This was very realistic, but was a fiberglass reproduction.

You begin the tour by viewing an introduction video. They open the screen at the end to this view of Atlantis. The real thing, not a reproduction. Atlantis was the last shuttle in space.

The crew portion. See the brown marks? Re-entry burns.

The cargo bay with the robot arm (Canadarm).

Engines and tail area. The three main engines were only fired during launch. All the smaller ones were used to maneuver the ship in space.

One of her main engines.

I took her for a couple of laps around the earth!

Shuttle tool kit

This one was a 'Snap-on' wrench. Not special made, just off the shelf.

Some of the space walks were un-tethered. Must have been a weird feeling to fly around space with one of these.

The Airstream Excella that transported the Shuttle astronauts to the launch pad.

Lots of other displays to see. Saturday we were back to see the remainder of the exhibits and a repeat bus tour to the launch pads.
The countdown clock at the main entrance.

Scale models of the rockets, most of which carried humans. The Apollo missions flew on the mighty Saturn V, the BIG one.

Astronaut flight helmets.

This one belonged to John Glenn.

The Gemini spacecraft

Pretty cramped in there. Two astronauts actually spent 14 days in one of these. The remained sitting the whole time.

Fast forward to the next generation of space exploration. This is a mockup of the Mars Rover.

Space exploration can be dangerous. There was a very moving exhibit honoring astronauts who have died in the business of space flight.
Piece of the Challenger that blew up on launch.

Window frames from the remains of the Columbia that burned up on entry. Very sad.

T-38 the astronauts train in

The future of space travel. Many companies are building spacecraft these days. Not all will make it into space.
Boeing Starliner. Will likely be used to take man to the moon again.

A new Shuttle? Proposed by McDonnell Douglas.

Space X Dragon spacecraft. This on e may carry astronauts to the Space Station in just over a year.

The interior pressure vessel of the new Orion Spacecraft. It may fly in a year or two.

The Orion spacecraft.

The Earth!
The 'rocket garden'. From the earliest Redman rocket used in space flight to the Saturn 1B.

Gemini spacecraft.

I assume the astronauts had more comfortable seats that these plastic ones.

The Saturn 1B, which preceded the Saturn V that took us to the moon.
We had three full days at the Space Center. It was amazing to see all the exhibits. The technology continues to advance in leaps and bounds. The computing power of the Apollo command module was less than today's cellphone.

There are thousands of jobs to be had at NASA and their contractor's. The first man to walk on Mars is likely between 7 and 17 years old today. Incredible to think that one of our grandkids could be going there!

We had a great time in the Cocoa area. Sunday is chore day and Monday we head further south to Miami!

Sunset over Cocoa.

Our site at Sonrise RV Park in Cocoa, FL.

.....and that was Our View From Here!