Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kennedy Space Center

Kitchy Florida roadside attractions are becoming a rare find because of the interstate system, so whenever possible I take an alternate route at least for part of the trip...  This place is found just outside of Christmas,  FL on State Road 50.  It is called Jungle Adventures-looks like a neat place.  I passed it, while looking at it in wonderment, and had to do a U-turn(much to The Rocket's dismay-although it only took 2 minutes) detour to get this picture. 
The purpose of this field trip with The Rocket's 3rd grade class is to wrap up the space exploration section of science.  What a cool way to wrap it up!  I was VERY excited to go on this trip and it almost didn't happen for me 'cause of a ding-dang rope swing incident....  But to my advantage, the trip was postponed TWICE due to extenuating circumstances(rain and the President), which enabled me to attend( YEA FOR ME!)  I have never been to the Kennedy Space Center, and frankly, the whole middle east coast of the state is rather unknown to me.  I know the top and bottom pretty good, but that middle has been rather elusive. 

We left the school at 7am and arrived about 2 hours later to the KSC(nice drive and not that far, actually).  We parked and started to the visitor center where we spoke with the women at the desk to get an idea of where to start.  The nice thing about this field trip is, we are basically on our own, to experience the place how we like.  Our only scheduled item that day was a luncheon at 12:15- with a real, live astronaut! 

The first thing we did was the Shuttle Launch Experience.  In it, you get to experience what "take off" feels like and learn the things that happen while being launched from the earth to the vacuum of outer space.  We didn't do the whole thing, just observed, 'cause of my back(next year when Sweetie Pie goes, we will go all the way!)  It is very educational in a fun way because the announcer explains all the things that are going to happen and why before you experience them.  Then you "board" the shuttle and experience the shaking and the tilt and the noise that goes along with being launched! 

Outside the ride, there is a static display of a retired shuttle.  There you can walk inside and get up close to it. 

Above is the cargo bay area.

This is the cockpit.

OK, now when they say tiles on the outside of the shuttle, they really mean tiles!  If one comes off or gets damaged, you can now see why it's so important!

This is the only heat shield the astronauts have as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere! I hope the boys that install those are paid well!

They have a 3-D IMAX theatre there.  IT'S COOL!   We saw a movie about the Hubble Telescope.  I am so glad we have that up in space, even if it only sends back pretty pictures, it's worth it! 

Above are some of the photos the Hubble has sent back for our viewing pleasure and question making.

Now for our luncheon.  We did not eat space/astronaut food, to my relief and dismay(sort-of, we were hungry!)  The lunch was served buffet style and was very good!  The kids all really enjoyed themselves and displayed good table manners.  
This is my plate- I cleaned it too!  And yes, that orange beverage is Tang!  I gave some to The Rocket and he got a kick out of it.  I have to look for some in the grocery store now...

When most people were finished eating, the astronaut came out and told us about himself and the missions he has been on(5 of them!).  The kids got to ask him questions. The Rocket's question was "How do you sleep in space?"  The answer is in sleeping bags strapped to the wall because of the absence of gravity in space, you don't have to sleep horizontally.  I think that would be really weird and I would probably have a hard time sleeping.  There were also the questions about going to the bathroom in space and what it feels like to walk when you get back to earth.  The days are very scheduled in space because it is expensive to be up there.   

The Rocket with Scott Parazynski, our real-live astronaut(who is also a Doctor).  He repaired the solar panels that were damaged on the space station.  A very personable and patient guy.

A trip to the gift shop before we boarded a tour bus that took us out to the Apollo/Saturn5 building. Along the way you pass the buildings where they keep the rockets and load the shuttles. 
The flag is over 200 feet long and is painted on the side of the building!  The building is about 500ft tall, it's the tallest one-story building in the world(I think that's what the guide said). 

The Apollo/Saturn5 building is the closest you can get to a launch, 3 miles away from the launch pad. It's reserved for VIPs.  I feel sorry for all the wildlife that is around the launch pad when a shuttle goes up!  A movie about the "space race", and the history of our efforts to put a man into space is shown.  The resolve and bravery of our astronauts, well, any astronaut-especially the earliest ones, is amazing!  I know I could never do it!  

When you leave the movie room, you enter a room that looks like a command center.  There you experience one of the early successful launches from the command center's point of view.  It's very tense, and joyous when the astronauts make it to orbit.  The doors open and here's what you see:
OK, everybody knows these things are enormous, but you don't fully appreciate how enormous till you see it yourself!  WOW!  Again, the resolve and bravery of our astronauts...  Can you imagine your booty strapped into something powered by this, going into a vacuum and being totally dependent upon a bunch of someone else's craftsmanship?  Uh-Uhhhh- NOT ME!!!
Here's some pics of the other things in this building:
The top half of the rocket, this part powers you in space. The bottom part detaches after you get out of earth's atmosphere.

The Apollo 14 capsule

Moon Buggy

The Rocket touching a moon rock.  The moon rock was kind-of a let down because it was tiny and polished like a piece of glass.  I wish they had left it more like a rock. It's hard to believe this is an actual moon rock.

The next building is the staging area, where items are packed for the trip to the space station.  There were some guys working on some shiny materials.  They were very friendly and would look up and wave and smile and pose for pictures, I thought "Gee, these guys are awfully friendly and happy!" 
Come to find out they were Italian-that explains it!
(The Rocket took this photo)

Leaving this area, there are some static displays of retired parts of the space station.  Including the bathroom and shower areas. 



After we boarded the bus and got back to the visitor center, we headed over to the rocket garden. 

Here there are static displays of the various rockets and information about the various missions.  There are even some capsules you can climb into and imagine being stuck in these seats for 2 weeks or more. I'm not kidding, you don't move around in these things!
This is the capsule of the Apollo 11.  This is how you are situated when blasting off, lying on your back in a sitting position with all your gear on, for a few hours before you even blast off!  Sure hope you don't have an itch on your nose...

We attempted a self-portrait while pretending to be on a mission...  this is a hard angle to photograph from!

Well, we closed the place down.  Got our money's worth out of those tickets!  Can you see how swollen our heads are with information?

 Here's a tip if you go:  Have your ticket "validated" at the desk before you leave, it enables you to visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame just up the road and to come back to the KSC any time with-in the next 7 days for free. 

But our trip is not over yet.
The famous Ron Jon's surf shop is just down the road a bit, and it was still light out, so we headed off to check it out. It's big, like a mall!  

The Rocket's antics outside.

We were one block from the beach.  There's no way I can be that close and not go visit!  So we walked out on the sand and took this shot:

Hunger set in again.  We ate at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville.  I had shrimp and he had a hamburger.  Yummy, and we had plenty to take home and share. 

What a day!  We left the house at 6:45am and didn't get back till 11:30pm. 
We were T-I-R-E-D!  It was a special day, just my Rocket and I, time spent together-just us.  It's a trip we will both remember forever. 

Since there are only 3 more shuttle missions, I believe we will be scrapping school soon to witness one or two.  There is one tomorrow but we will be on another field trip.  Speaking of which, I mentioned this place in another posting as a potential summer trip.  The Rocket and I get to "scope it out" before-hand! It's the Pioneer Art Settlement in Barberville


Ingrid DeVilliers said...

Dear Amber

This is a lovely post with lots and lots of interesting info! I enjoyed your photographs and will keep the Kennedy Space Center in mind as a place to visit!

D'Ache' said...

They've changed somethings around since we've been there. I remember you were not happy that we got to go to Ron Jon's before you. Did you get the space ice cream at the gift shop? I think that is the same restaurant we ate at one night while we were there.

Amber said...

Thanks girls for the wonderful comments! Oh Ing, it is really amazing what it takes to get into space and it's so worth the trip from Naples! D -I marvelled mostly at Ron Jon's vastness, the stuff was overpriced. When I dropped you off at the airport, I stopped by the KSC gift shop there and got the ice cream. The kids weren't impressed. It was a really fun trip!

D'Ache' said...

I'm sure that place has gotten larger since. It's the name your payin' for. I could send you an MRE but I don't think they'd be impressed with that either. ;)