Florida Trip Day 3: Nerd heaven
Yesterday we spent the entire day at Kennedy Space Center. It’s like Disneyland, only more awesome and more educational. Definitely more awesome.
I totally didn’t think that we’d spend the entire day there… I had no idea there was so much to see! But we got there around 10:30 AM, and closed the place down at 8PM, and there was STILL stuff we didn’t get to see. Crazy!
But it was ridiculously cool. Like I said in the post title, it’s nerd heaven, and all four of us that spent today together are definitely on the geeky side in some respects. So we had a great time. :-)
This is far from all of my pics, of course — it’s all of my cameraphone pictures, plus a few from my big camera. I didn’t have time to go through all of them, but I’ll get around to it. :-)
We started the day off with breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I had grits and biscuits (no gravy, though) and bacon. It was good, but nothing to write home about. I also bought a box of Moon Pies as a souvenir--another thing Californian me has heard of but never seen. Haven't touched them yet though.
Sign outside of Cracker Barrel. I was tempted to bring some bacon out, but thought it might be a bad idea. But I really REALLY want to see a gator, darn it!!
Next stop? Kennedy Space Center!!
So at Disneyland, the parking lot is divided into sections titled with Disney character names, right? Well, at Kennedy Space Center, it's astronauts' names. SWEET. We parked in Gordon Cooper.
Mission flag. :-)
So the parking lot wasn't too bad, and it seemed like we parked close, so we thought, "Wow, it won't be too crowded!!" And then we got to the ticket area... Yeah. There were over a thousand people in line (this is not even half of the crowd), and the lines were moving SLOOOOWWW. So we got smart, and got out our smartphones. Then we bought tickets on their website, and got in about 1/4 as long Will Call line to pick up the tickets. Even with the Will Call line being shorter, it was still a half hour wait, but hey, score a win for technology. :-)
Kids + DSLRs = awesome. :-) She was actually taking a picture with it when I first saw her.
Self-portrait fail. I took this with the camera on the front (screen side) of my cell phone. Notice anything wrong? :-)
The first thing we did was hop the “free” (included with admission) tour bus to the far-flung parts of KSC. During the ride, they played a video talking about different parts of the KSC, its history, etc.
Our bus driver was this old lady who was… wow. Picture the stereotypical grumpy old third grade teacher. She actually threatened to stop the bus because she didn’t like how some people were behaving. I didn’t think it was anything bad–they were just laughing about something.
And when she hit play on the movie, the four of us in our little group started talking (not loudly!) about something shuttle-related, and she actually shushed us, and then later on when we did it again, she asked us sarcastically if the movie was interrupting our conversation, and if what we were saying was important enough that it should be shared with everyone. She was really something else.
Someday I'll be on Jeopardy, and there will be a Famous Buildings category, and they'll show a picture of this, and I'll be the one furiously shaking my buzzer to answer, "What is the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC, Alex?" Seriously, I was so stoked to see this. :-)
(Click the picture, then click it again to get the full size panorama.) This is taken from the Launch Complex 39 Observation Gantry, which is the closest they'll let us get to the launchpad on the regular tour. I took this with a new app I have for my phone that takes panorama shots. On the far left is the Vehicle Assembly Building, on the far right is the launchpad that Atlantis left from, and the gravel double track that goes across the whole image (and splits off into two different directions) is the road the crawler takes to carry the shuttle from the VAB to the launchpad. If you've seen Apollo 13, the crawler was in there taking the Apollo 13 to the launch pad. In this picture, you can actually see the crawler on the left side of the picture, between the tour bus and the VAB. I have better pictures of the crawler elsewhere, don't worry. :-)
Me with the launch pad in the background. Had I been there two days earlier, the shuttle would have still been on it. But as I got to watch it take off as scheduled, I'm not complaining!! :-)
The crawler that takes the shuttle to the launchpad.
After the launch gantry we took the bus (thankfully with a different driver — a really cool one, actually!) to the Apollo/Saturn V center.
It's hard to tell from this picture, but there's actually a manatee floating in the pond in the foreground. Well, there were two, but there's only one in this picture. The bus driver pointed them out to us, and actually slowed down (couldn't stop though) so we could take a picture. Way cool!!! :-)
The whole place ROCKED. When we got in there, the first thing we did was sit inside the actual launch mission control room, and they ran us through a simulated launch of one of the Apollo missions, complete with the computers lighting up, the video playing, and really really loud sound. The room even shook!! It was absolutely freaking incredible, and so realistic that, like at the launch the day before, I teared up. So so amazing.
Control room, T minus 3 minutes.
I loved the details!
Then we exited from the mission control room into the main part of the center, which housed an ENTIRE SATURN V ROCKET. These things are MASSIVE, yo.
(Click, then click again to see the full-sized panorama.) Saturn V rocket (what the Apollo missions went up on.) The thing was absolutely enormous, and this whole part of the museum was amazing. It was a separate museum in its own right, and it was just one building at KSC!!
Me and the Saturn V. :-)
Alan Shepard's Corvette. The license plate reads "1st Up." WIN. :-)
Mission patches. It was neat to see the similarities, differences, and artwork on them. Oh, and that's the Saturn V running the length of the room.
Snoopy the Astronaut!
Text from the display:
In 1968, NASA recruited Snoopy of the comic strip “Peanuts” as a mascot to “emphasize mission success and act as a ‘watchdog’ for flight safety.” Snoopy’s creator, Charles Schulz, enthusiastically welcomed the idea, and NASA was permitted to use “Snoopy the Astronaut” for free–as long as Schulz drew Snoopy and a copyright notice appeared next to the image.
Later, in May of 1969, an estimated one billion people watched on television as Apollo 10′s Charlie Brown command module and Snoopy lunar module traveled to the moon from Kennedy Space Center as a rehearsal mission for the historic moon landing of Apollo 11. Charlie Brown returned safely to the earth after 31 lunar orbits, and is now on display at the Science Museum in London, England. The Snoopy lunar module remains in solar orbit to this day, the only surviving lunar module sent into space.
Snoopy remains an honored part of the space program. The Silver Snoopy award is presented to individuals in NASA, other government agencies, and within the industry for outstanding performance and contributions to the space program. The silver pin is presented by an astronaut in a ceremony usually occurring at the recipient’s place of work. Dubbed the “astronauts’ personal award,” it remains a tremendously special honor.
Remember that crawler transporter for the shuttle/other rockets? Here is one of the treads.
Hanging from the ceiling was an original moon lander for Apollo 15, before they decided to redo it to incorporate the moon rover (so they built this, but then it didn't actually go into space.) I saw one of these at the Air and Space Museum in DC, but this one was in much better shape, and boy was it neat to look at.
The actual Apollo 14 capsule. Incredible.
Alan Shepard's spacesuit.
We must have spent at least two hours, if not more, just in that one building. It was a total kick, let me tell you. After that, we took the bus back to the main complex to see more stuff.
Shaun, Rick, and Mike in the rocket park.
Nerd Disneyland comes complete with Disneyland prices for food. I skipped lunch. Also, Space Dots!! (Dippin' Dots ice cream, for those of you that've seen it... yet another way they're Disneyland.) :-)
Mural of the International Space Station, with flags of contributing countries.
Is it bad that I saw this and immediately wanted it?
They had a full-sized shuttle mock-up that we could go into--pretty neat!
The mock-up's cargo bay, complete with satellite cargo.
In keeping with the "nerd Disneyland" theme, they even had a ride--a shuttle launch simulation, where you actually got to sit in the pretend shuttle and go through a launch, complete with being tipped onto our backs in seats, simulated g-forces (they actually did a really good job with this--so so cool!), and video narration by a former astronaut (who was hilarious, btw.)
We didn't get out of there until after 8:30, and by the time we got on the road, it was an absolutely gorgeous sunset. I didn't do any post-processing at all to this picture--it really was that amazingly colorful. As a Californian, I feel like I have pretty high standards for my sunsets... and this was one of the most gorgeous I've seen.
What a neat, neat day it was. :-)