We Have Liftoff!

Trip Start Apr 30, 2013
Trip End Jun 19, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

About an hours drive to the east from Disney World is the Kennedy Space Center. We spent two days there, looking at the exhibits, listening to a talk from an astronaut and watching an actual rocket launch!

I've been somewhat confused between the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral (which is what I thought they called it in the Apollo days). While the space related facilities here have had various names over the years, now there are two connected complexes. The Kennedy Space Center (which we saw some of) is basically used for civilian launches (it was used for all Apollo and Space Shuttle launches) and next to it (roughly to the south-east) is the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (which we were not allowed to see) which is used basically for military launches.

Among the exhibits on display were:
  • A "Rocket Garden", featuring a number of rockets from NASA's history.
  • Various capsules and satellites.
  • Space suits and other equipment.
  • Samples of moon rock.
  • A Saturn 5 rocket on its side.
One exhibit we did not get to see was the space shuttle Atlantis. The are preparing it for display, but it doesn't open for a few months.
The astronaut we listened to was Jim Reilly, a geologist who flew on three Space Shuttle missions and spent time on the International Space Station. He mostly spoke about what it was like in the weightless conditions in orbit. It seems that by-and-large space farers adjust to the conditions fairly easily, even though you may think the absence of the feeling of a downward direction would be completely disorienting. He did tell the story of a fellow astronaut who, shortly after returning from space, let go of his drink in mid-air, expecting it to stay there.

The highlight of visiting the Space Center was getting to witness an actual launch. It was the launch of an (unmanned) Atlas 5 rocket, sending a GPS satellite into orbit, It may not have been as spectacular as a Space Shuttle launch (let alone a launch of the gigantic Saturn 5 rockets used in the Apollo program), but we were fortunate to see any sort of space launch at all.
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Stephen on

Ground control to Major Bob, can you here me Major Bob!!!
Pretty cool stuff. I never considerd that they would have extensive facilities for visitors.

bn2010usa on

I was surprised at what they had. And it was good stuff too. Not just models or reconstructions. There was plenty there for kids too.

Neroli went on a Space Shuttle Takeoff Simulation. It was pretty good evidently and included a briefing from a real astronaut. I had a bad cold and didn't think my eustachian tubes would be up to it.

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