Out of this world!

Trip Start Feb 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 28, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Monday, March 1, 2010

She's back from rehab.  No more ants in her pants.  Mornings are better.  Caffeine is once again cursing through my veins!

Its going so quickly now, as the final week in the office is here.  I'm looking forward to my holiday and seeing my brother Paul and sharing some adventures with him, but I know that I will be ready at the end of it go come back home to my little apartment and my life in the South of France.

Last weekend I made the long journey up to Cape Canaveral, and it really is long, at first I thought my exit from the 1-95 was 112, then I looked again and it was 212! groan.  Its a bit like driving to Livorno from Antibes for those that know that trip!, so I stayed the night.

Anyway I went to visit the Kennedy Space Center.  Its not my usual cup of tea, but at the same time I wanted to go to a nearby ranch and do some riding, so I thought 'why not' go and see what there is to see.


I wasnt sure how I felt about space exploration, with all the problems we are having on our own planet, I didnt know if I thought it was a good idea, I hadnt really given it much thought before, but we still don't know everything about our own planet whats deep in the bottom of the ocean, or in the forests!

So I've been doing a bit of research.  I love the internet, you can type in anything and you come up with answers!  We form our opinions on most things in life pretty quickly, be it on race, religion, ideas!  Who has the time or patience or interest to really study and know 100% that they have covered every angle?  Its a fact, its disturbing that we are not on the whole more 'open' to others opinions, but it is what it is.  'You can please some of the people, some of the time, but you can't please all the poeple all the time!'
Anyway, before I go off rambling onto some other theme, here is my snapshot study of NASA and the space programme.

So how much does it all costs the USA?

Approx $18 billion on NASA of that $5-7 bllion a year is spent on space exploration.  Ooh thats a lot, yes, but the total federal budget is $3.1 Trillion.  Now that is a lot of zero's. 

When you compare it to what else they are spending the Trillions on:

National Debt Payment: $10.2 trillion (580 times larger than NASA's budget)
Department of Defense: $515.4 billion (29.3 times larger than NASA's budget)
Global War on Terrorism: $189.3 billion (10.8 times larger than NASA's budget)
Health & Human Services: $68.5 billion (3.9 times larger than NASA's budget)
Department of Transportation: $63.4 billion (3.6 times larger than NASA's budget)
Department of Education: $59.2 billion (3.4 times larger than NASA's budget)
Department of Housing & Urban Development: $38.5 billion (2.2 times larger than NASA's budget)
Department of Energy: $25.0 billion (1.4 times larger than NASA's budget) 

Remember the bail out? in 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a "stimulus" package of $787 billion for the Banking, Mortgage and Automobile industries for one year. That same amount of money could operate NASA for the next 42 years.  Puts it all int persepective doesnt it. 

I wonder how many of those are bottomless pits that just soak up the money with no returns, at least with Space exploration it is estimated that for every $1 the income is $8.

So what are the benefits?

This is what some clever people have to say:

“Space exploration can serve as a stimulus for children to enter the fields of science and engineering.”

“Economic, scientific and technological returns of space exploration have far exceeded the investment. … Royalties on NASA patents and licenses currently go directly to the U.S. Treasury, not back to NASA.”

Its all about the money!  Spinoffs have included amongst other things, Micro electronics which have lead to phones/computers etc, weather information, medical advances such as understanding of osteophorosis.  It creates jobs.

"That’s pennies per person per day. In 2006, according to the USDA, Americans spent more than $154 billion on alcohol. We spend around $10 billion a month in Iraq. And so on.”

Who knows what it will bring in the future, well we don't do we, who would have guessed 200 years ago that we would be flying up in the air in a big heavy metal thing and going from country to country in hours, that I would be able to sit on my sofa in the USA and call someone in Australia on a wireless PC and see their face on the screen, science fiction at one time, turned to science fact!

Also the age old quesiton of are we alone in this universe?, if we don't go we may not know.  I think its quite exciting actually and I'm now a space exploration fan, as long of course as its being managed properly and thoughtful experiments are being done which will help to improve and develop our lifes.

Now on with my visit:

I have to say it is extremely gob smackingly impressive, seeing those huge rockets, and mind boggling how they manage to get them way up there into space (and back again).  Walking around the Space Center and going on the guided tour, I did feel sometimes that they were appealing to everyone to try and convince us  how great it is that they are doing what they are doing, it felt like propoganda. (but now I am convinced)
The Rocket building
The VAB (Vehichle Assembly Building) is the largest one-story building in the world, and was the tallest building in Florida until 1974,  and is still the tallest building in the United States outside an urban area. The American flag painted on its south side was the largest in the world when added in 1976. The stars measure 6 feet in diameter and the stripes are 9 feet wide.

Launch pad

One of the launch pads

RocketRocket GardenBig rocket

Apollo 11.  the last manned space mission to the Moon, took off from Kennedy on July 16, 1969 and landed on July 20th.

Model of Space shuttle launch pad
A model of the Space shuttle.

So what's going on these days up in space?

I have to say that before I went to Kennedy I knew very little about what is going on up there. It hadnt registered on my radar that they had a space station up there.  The International Space Station (ISS) , a collaboration between, US. Russia, Japan,Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, .  It is being constructed in what they call Lower Earth Orbit. It began in 1998 and shold be finished by 2011. The station is expected to remain in operation until at least 2015, and likely 2020. ISS can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, if you want to find out where it is, so you know when to look up go to: http://spaceflight1.nasa.gov/station/index.html 

The ISS serves as a research laboratory that has a microgravity environment in which crews conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology. The station has a unique environment for the testing of the spacecraft systems that will be required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS is operated by Expedition crews, and has been continuously staffed since 2 November 2000, 

So that's my snapshot, hope you liked it and it inspires you to find out more about it.

Phew, that was another long one!!  So I stayed over night, in the aptly named 'Apollo' motel, which was just fine, nice and clean this time.

In the morning in search of breakfast I went to Cocoa Beach and passed the famous Ron Jon's Surf shop, which is open all the time 24hrs!!  I didnt stop as I was in need of food and getting a bit light headed!  But I took a quick picture of Cocoa beach.  They do have some lovely beaches over here.

Cocoa Beach one wayCocoa Beach the other wayJon Ron
I then went to the Forever Florida Ecoranch near Kissimmee and went on a 3-hour slow paced ride where we ended up in a field of lovely looking cows, some with calfs and pretended we were cowboys and girls and herded from from one field to another, leaving a few behind.  They were quite sporting and played along with it, but I couldnt help but think, they were mooing to each other, here come the bloody tourist moving us along, when we are here minding out own business having a lovely time thank you very much, just as we were!

Herding the lovely cowsThey did have a bit of a moan!On my horse

Anyway it was different!  The ride was lovely, but I would have liked to take off at a gallop and got a bit of wind in my hair!!  Still the countryside is wonderful and we rode through some quite deep rivers, which have Aligators in them!!  I also saw some Armadillo's running around which are the most prehistoric looking things, so good to see them in the wild.
Through the swampsPeacock at the ranchThrough the river on my gee gee
On the way home I went via Lake Okeechobee (the one that feeds the Everglades!) and saw the sun setting, it was a long drive back, but a wonderful sun set.
Sunset over Lake OckechobbeeSunset on the drive home

That's it, feels more like a book than a blog, sorry about that.  The next one will be shorter, as this weekend I'm pampering and going to Miami, so close by.
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