Sunday, 8 June 2014

Countdown to International Convention ....and Kennedy Space Centre

A matter of days ....

that's all the time I have left ......

.... then I'm leaving on a jet plane

for New York baby! Yeah!  - oh and a little thing in Orlando - the Zonta International Convention.

When in Orlando it is pretty cool to LEAVE Orlando - and drive a fast car, for 90 minutes, on the expressway to the Space Coast and Kennedy Space Centre.

I, like squillions around the world, grew up with I Dream with Jeannie after school every day and wondered about this place called Cocoa Beach.

Finally, I got in my hire car and drove out there to check out this internationally famous American icon.

Leaving Orlando ...

.... arriving on the Space Coast. Soggy.
There are few stories that so clearly define a universal USA mental model than space exploration. So much of the countries confidence and technology developments have been drawn from NASA and the race to the stars.

Famous for the creation of Project Management, NASA have been instrumental behind miles of innovations including LEDs, artificial limbs, car tires and baby food.

yep - the front entrance gate - don't let the dogs out
Back when I visited NASA still had sole use of the base - now days it is a commercial space port, the space shuttle has been tucked inside and private contractors such as SpaceX are shooting off the rockets for satellites.  Back then I took the "launch pad" tour, which started in their little bus depot.

... you are here
Do you know why KSC is located here on the Florida coast?

Back in the 60's, it was the cheapest, most eastern, and closest to the equator, territory of the USA. Being on the east coast and on the bulgiest bit of the earth saves substantial energy when trying to fling rockets out of gravity's grip. 

On our bus, they had a host who told us lots and lots of great info.

Still soggy
We started off at the public viewing spot for launches  - off over there somewhere

On entering the base, we went past lots of viewing towers and office blocks, eventually reaching the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Where the rocket capsules are stacked together

One's stacked rocket is loaded onto the tractor carrier

The tractor trundles down this gravel road.  3 miles to the launch pad takes all day.
The gravel road is a feat of civil engineering capable of handling the weight. Then we arrive at the launch pad.

This was as close we could get and the pouring rain limited visibility

imported from Houston - the original control centre reconstructed
Standing in the rain got too much for me, and so I went inside to see the museum.

On display is a large range equipment and media stories from the time, including bits of rockets and old capsules.

crispy - all that's left of Apollo 14
 The main selling point is this:

An entire, unused Saturn rocket
This is clearly the highlight of the museum - it's HUGE and lies horizontally through the length of the room. Far too big to photograph.

As long as a football field
Essentially a big spacy airport and runway, KSC gives the public easy access to incredible adventure of space travel. In terms of content, it is fairly light and easy to understand. No astrophysics here but enough to tease one's thinking about how a huge industry going to the moon must have been.

KSC offers other attractions too - like a little garden planted with old rockets, an IMAX cinema with stunning film of the astronauts, and of course a little shop. With the finalisation of the space shuttle program, a brand new display featuring Atlantis has been installed.

poor old Explorer - absolutely stripped bare and plonked out the back in a walkway.
Did you see the original broadcast of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon? Will you make the trip to discover outer space?

That man-on-the-moon broadcast was totally dependent on the NASA transmitter dishes here in Australia, in Parkes and just outside Canberra at Tidbinbilla. The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla also houses a magnificent space museum which rivals KSC for quality - just missing the aircraft and rockets.

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