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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kennedy Space Center

Heading home from visiting parents in Florida we decided to stop at Kennedy Space Center. We had witnessed a shuttle launch from Titusville's Space View Park, back in 2006, but never actually visited Cape Kennedy. Another draw was that this is one of the few places our 18 year old, freshman engineering student, was interested in visiting.

What does it cost? Admission, at $50 for the day, is less than getting into a theme park. We ended up extending that to an annual pass by the end of the first day for only another $25. Parking was $10/day for cars and $15/day for RV's.

 A guided tour of the rocket garden began just as we entered the park. Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo rockets are on display.
From there we signed up for an immersive 3D experience exploring the surface of Mars. Joining a small group, we donned 3D goggles and watched a presentation about exploring mars in a small room where we could wander and get different perspectives on the planet.  Upon returning our goggles, we exited to see displays of rover technology and a 1/25 scale model of the Space Launch System.  SLS will be the next NASA manned rocket and may get us to Mars.

Next on our agenda was a talk by Rick Searfoss, an actual astronaut. He was well spoken, with an inspirational message about the importance of leadership and teamwork.

Space Launch System 1/25 scale model
Crawler From Underneath
"Behind the Gates" is a bus tour that took us onto the actual Space Center property. Seeing the giant Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) up-close is worth the tour. The crawler, used to get rockets to the launch pad is quite amazing. Two launch pads are on the route, one of which is being leased to SpaceX. The further pad is reserved for the SLS, as it is the only pad far enough from the other buildings to launch such a large rocket.


Launch Pad

SpaceX Falcon Support Building 
We were a little disappointed that the busses didn't stop and let us out at any of the points on the tour. I guess with so many visitors it wouldn't be practical.
Blast shields with signs of use
Vehicle Assembly Building and SLS Escape Rocket
The bus tour dropped us off at the Saturn V center. This exhibit hall featured a Saturn V rocket displayed horizontally with all of the stages separated. We checked the time and waited for a tour guide to explain each of the stages. No one else waited, so we had a private guide who gave great insight and answered all of our questions. We've found docents like him at all kinds of museums. They really make a huge difference in how much we learn and enjoy the visit.
Instrumentation stage. Huge computers that controlled the firing of the rocket stages. Most of this ring was provided by IBM. A cell phone probably has more computing power today.

The business end of a Saturn V.

Riding the bus back to the Visitor's Center, we had time to tour the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit. The build-up is well orchestrated. They talk to you about the program while you wait for a simulated shuttle lift-off. After "surviving" that experience you hear a little more history of the program, before the real shuttle is revealed. You then have as much time as you like to look over, and under, the actual Atlantis.
Shuttle Bay Open with Canadarm Deployed


Atlantis Engines and Tiles from the Underside
Preserved Control Room from Project Mercury
Meeting Robonaut
Space Garden Decorated for the Holidays


Waiting for the Astronaut Hall of Fame
NASA Ornament




















Day two we visited "Heroes and Legends," the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and enjoyed the movie "Science on a Sphere". You can have popcorn at 9 AM! All three of us really enjoyed the experiences, and plan to come back on our next trip to Florida. There are several IMAX movies included in the admission price that we didn't see and we might sign-up for one of the extended tours.

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