January 29, 2020

#202 Kennedy Space Center

“Even the most blase visitors become transfixed with pride and patriotism at Kennedy Space Center, a living monument to America's indomitable will and technological prowess.”

“This is where Alan Shepherd lifted off in 1961 to become the first American to be sent into space, [and] where the first men left for the moon in July 1969 aboard Apollo 11…”

“From the complex, grab a narrated bus tour that passes by the world-famous LC-39 launch pad and on to the Apollo/Saturn V Center to experience a narrated simulation of the Apollo 8 launch.”
I actually upgraded to the KSC Explore Tour which is a 2-hour tour of the launch complex.  We stopped at the VIP viewing area across the water from Launch Complex 39 - with pads 39A and B.  Launch pads from which every American in space has left earth.
Our second stop was between Pad 39A and B, and the third stop was at the Vehicle Assembly Building where (you guessed it) everything is assembled.  

Some fun facts about the VAB:

  • It would take 250 BILLION ping pong balls to fill the VAB
  • The starfield on the flag is the size of an NBA basketball court; and each stripe is wide enough for a bus to drive down
  • The stars are six feet across
  • The 4 big doors take 45-ish minutes to fully open

Generally, the scale of everything is enormous. More Enormous than you can possibly fathom from the pictures.
The platform and the mover (these are not the technical terms), are currently hanging out and undergoing some refurbishing outside the VAB.  The mover-thing that transports the platform and rocket to the Launch Complex has a top speed of 1 mph when fully loaded.  (2mph before the pad and rocket are loaded.)  It takes 7 hours to move the rocket to the LC, and the causeway is as wide as an 8 lane freeway.

Most of the “smoke” you see during a launch is actually steam.  Water is launched up through the pad cool it down and to dampen sound waves that will cause serious damage to the space craft.

They drop you off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center and funnel you into a presentation that relieves the launch of Apollo 8 from the firing room. They have the actual consoles used during that launch in the complex and all the consoles and lights are tripped at the appropriate times that match the recording the play of the final 3 minutes to launch. They have a sound system that booms and makes you feel the rockets firing and shaking the building. Not gonna lie….it was pretty cool.  

They also have a moon rock, that you can touch.  So, obviously I did.
Every human that has ever walked on the moon was launched by a Saturn V rocket. It is 363 feet long (60 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty).

My last stop was the Space Shuttle Atlantis. A full-scale space shuttle stack of two solid rocket boosters and an orange external tank mark the entrance.  Inside, you walk up a ramp and then through 2 theaters.  The first talks about the challenges in conceiving and designing a reusable space vehicle.  It took 10 years to build.  The second theater recreates the launch in a 365-degree viewing experience.  It ends with Atlantis gliding to earth, the main screen fades and the screen becomes opaque, Atlantis peaking through.  When they raise the screen, it is awe-inspiring to the point where spontaneous applause and cheering broke out among the group.  Kudos to whoever designed that reveal….it hits all the emotional, patriotic, wonders of space buttons.
Atlantis is displayed as only astronauts as previously seen her in space ...rotated 43.21 degrees with the payload doors open and Canadarm extended, and again ...the scale is gigantic.
Also, if you don’t want to walk all the way down to ground floor, you can totally take the shortcut and “glide like Atlantis”