Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Visiting the NASA Kennedy Space Center Cape Canaveral

There is only one way to describe a visit to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.  Worth the price of admission, and that includes the tickets for the cruise ship we came in on.  

There are lots of models like this:
The NASA Dream Chaser.  A smaller shuttle craft which seats 7, set to fly 2016.
And this:
A mock up of the Orion capsule, which sleeps 4.  First space flight was 12/5/2014.

Any day is a good day when you can say this is the second most powerful rocket you have ever seen.

A 1 - 1 scale model of the space shuttle's boosters and fuel tank.  150 feet tall, total thrust about 6.1 million pounds.

The most powerful rocket being the Saturn V, lying on it's side.  At 363 feet in length, with 6.5 million pounds of thrust.
Saturn V main thrusters, at 1-1 scale.

Adults also 1-1 scale, Saturn V boosters in front, while the second and third stages are somewhere in the distance.

Saturn V 1st stage.  Second and Third still in the distance.
Saturn V 2nd Stage
3rd Stage.
Apollo Capsule front.

Lunar Lander.

What is really impressive is that this is all real equipment.  The Saturn V rocket here was built for the canceled Apollo 19 flight.

And the Lunar Rover.  I see that NASA had "Run Flat" tires long before Firestone.

Then there is the "Rocket Garden"

From left to right, Atlas-Agena, Delta, Juno-I, Gemini-Titan, Juno II, (partially behind the Gemini). The one on it's side is a Saturn I. I don't think the green rocket with red bow's ever flew though.

A Gemini Capsule.

Gemini-Titan.  109 feet tall, with 430,000 pounds of thrust

Saturn I.  180 feet tall, with 1.5 million pounds of thrust.

Juno I.  70 feet tall, with 94,000 pounds of thrust.

A tight fit for anyone.

A gift store, but with that box-rocket in the ceiling, who could resist.
As awesome as these displays are, I saved the best for last.  On display here is one of the 4 surviving space shuttles, the Atlantis.  The lead in to the display are two short films.  The first with a bit of history of the start of the program.
This is the original prototype space shuttle.  Made of paper and wood, and it actually glided.

Then we move to this theater.  Nothing I can show or describe can give you a adequate feel of this experience.  A cave, about 60 feet wide, 100 feet deep and 30 feet tall.  All the surfaces have a video for Atlantis's first launch.  Followed up by seeing it in space rotating its body and maneuvering the Canadarm to capture the Hubble Space telescope.

The screen fades a bit, then in front of you it rises into the ceiling, then you see this:

Space Shuttle Atlantis. 

Grabbing the space telescope Hubble.
Atlantis's main engines.
Atlantis, port side rear view.
I am not sure on the rules.  Do you need a drivers license or a passport to fly this thing?
Canadarm simulator.

The hall of patches.

The Shuttle mobile.
The emergency exit.

A children's scale model of the International Space Station.  Completely crawl through.
ISS Entrance.

View of Atlantis from underneath, port side.
Other features.  Snoopy was the name of the lunar lander for Apollo 10, the Command Module was named Charlie Brown.  Snoopy never actually made it to the moon having been intercepted by the Red Baron on the way as described in the lyrics of the song, "The Smallest Astronaut" by the Royal Guardsmen.

Then there is the Angry Birds Space Encounter.

OK, this is a bit weird...

This is a spectacular piece of wall art.
A 30 minute lecture by Ken Cameron.  An astronaut of 3 shuttle missions.
Ken Cameron Q&A.  Despite prodding by our tour guides, no one asked about how you crap in space.

All in all a wonderful trip.  I look forward to going again when not time constrained.  One note.  Don't come here on an empty stomach.  The eateries are at best poor, and totally insufficient to the task of feeding a couple of bus loads of people.  I think it took about 45 minutes to get through the line, and there was a lot of people behind us.  Ditto the gift shop lines.  This is not just a one day problem, as I have seen references alluding to it in commentary elsewhere.

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