Tuesday, June 17, 2014

NASA- The Chief Engineers of Rocketships, Moonbuggies and Cool Theme Park Style Rides

Posted by Christopher

The space shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center
We have officially started the road trip back, having started the long journey after selling the magnificent vessel Monashee. We were in fact driving out of Ft. Lauderdale when we remembered something that we had thought of, but never seen as we came in to Florida for the first time. Kennedy Space Center and all the sciencey buildings and the tourist stuff that go along with it. 

Taking a sidetrip to NASA's Kennedy Launch Center.
 So we swerved off of the highway, when we saw the exit sign, and we began to drive down the road to the famed space center. It took about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the space center (including a subway lunch break) but we finally got to it, with the first sight of it being a massive rocket waiting there.
We parked and walked to the admission gate. The tickets were not cheap, but they let us go through, and we emerged on the other side looking at a touristy café. There was a lady on the other side who told us to walk down a walkway for a bit and we would find a bus loading in visitors. That would take us to the main exhibits and to a quick bus tour as well.

The rocket garden at the Kennedy Space Center.
But as we walked down the pathway, we got quickly sidetracked in to a show room that was currently showing an astronaut, who was giving a little presentation. So we decided to go in and take a look. The presentation took about 45 minutes and was quite interesting. He talked about life on a spaceship, why it’s important to go to space and answered a few crowd questions.

John Blaha has been into spce a bunch of times, and was a pretty good speaker, too.
After that we actually took the bus like we were told to. We got on, and there were little TV screens attached to the roof every 10 seats or so. Alexander and I sat together, right under one so we needed to look at the next one in front of us which was quite far away. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and was really cool. They showed us where all the spaceships were built, how they moved them to the launch pad with giant metal behemoths on treads that carried them upright, and the launch pad itself. When the tour finally ended we were dropped off in the main exhibits and such, of the Kennedy Space Center.

The VAB (vehical assembly building).
This guy generated as much excitement as the space stuff did on our bus tour.
We got off at the main area, where there was all of the important space stuff displayed in glass containers. There was a moon rock, a bunch of prototype spacesuits, and even a Moonbuggy. when we walked in to the next room, It was REALLY massive, with a massive rocket spanning the entire room, on display about 5 meters up. Also there was a little food place, where we got a couple things to bite because we were hungry.

A re-entry module, for coming back through the Earth's atmosphere.
This is a lunar excursion module (LEM), for exploring the moon.
Moon buggy.
When we kept going, there were a lot of things, like lots of dramatic videos showing different launches, the actual mission control room, and a large room with a circular screen all around that was showing a lot of cool video from space, and it made you really dizzy. It felt a lot like you were actually there and it almost knocked me over a couple of times, probably because I was at the very front of the room, so I couldn’t see anything other than the screen.

The huge Saturn V rockets which powered the trips to the moon.
Neil Armstrong's actual spacesuit.  They didn't wash it after he got back, so that is moon dust on the knees.
After that, the screen opened up vertically, allowing us to go through in to another massive room, with lots of models of ships and stuff, and some video games that were hooked up to a camera (a kinect) so you could move and have that movement in the game. The game was a spaceship fixing simulator, but it didn’t seem to work for me as it didn’t know where I was moving.

Flying the Space Shuttle in the simulator.
We walked down up a ramp to a different spot in the room where there was a glass tube that you could crawl in to and look down a vertigo-inducing height to the bottom of a room. Near there, was a really steep scary slide, that I decided to take to get down to the bottom of the room. That was where I saw the Rocket Takeoff Simulator. It was AWESOME. There was a big presentation at the start, about how a real takeoff is, and then they let you on the ride. At the start, It tipped you 90 degrees, so straight up in a large capsule holding about 40 people that was designed to look like the inside of a shuttle. Then It started to shake, and move a bit around, trying to simulate speed, and G-force, it shook you around a little longer, while showing you the what’s supposedly outside of the shuttle, via a TV screen. It was really cool, and when I got off I felt I bit jittery. After that we went back down to the main area, where we played around with the flight simulator videogame a bit.

Crawling through the vertigo-inducing tube.
The launch simulator was AWESOME.
After that we decided that it was probably time to go. So we packed up and headed out, back on the bus to where we parked the car.

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