Trip Start Sep 03, 2007
220Trip End Jun 17, 2009
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We moved on to the west coast, through Daytona and then down to Titusville, which is the nearest town to the "Kennedy Space Centre', ready for the planned Space Shuttle launch tomorrow
Distance driven 147 miles
Thursday 6th December
OK - Today is 'Really Big Boy's Toys' day !!!!
Off to Kennedy Space Centre, which is out in reclaimed swampland towards the coast. As in most of Florida, we see birdlife everywhere, especially the vultures, who wheel around in the sky. They are really majestic in the air. The area is criss crossed with small creeks and we see alligators in quite a few of them. There is an additional display area a coach ride away towards the Launch Sites, where the Saturn Rocket and Apollo Missions are exhibited. We had time before this afternoon's launch at 1631 of Shuttle Mission STS122, so we boarded the coach for the tour. Past the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building and then the driver says " Sorry Folks, we just got news of a shuttle malfunction - the launch is cancelled for today" NOOOOO !!!!!! Oh well, some you win, some .........
The Saturn display was excellent
Shuttle Launch time is set for 1609 Eastern Time - we'll be there !!!!
Friday 7th December
We heard late last night that NASA have postponed the launch for 48 hous ie Saturday afternoon. NOOOOO!!!! The problem is in a set of sensors that detect the level of the liquid hydrogen tank and switch off the engines just before the tank runs dry. Unfortunately they are intermittently giving false readings and the NASA Engineers think there is a risk of engine cut - off when the shuttle is launching. They have seen this problem before but it always cleared on refilling the tank
We have a housekeeping day in which I enjoy a little more American dentistry (they are impressively efficient and I am realising the shortcomings of our own NHS services). We also investigate the cost of Laptop PC's and they are considerably cheaper over here - as it seems is everything else (except maybe dentists)!! This exercise is prompted by the facts that we do not always stay near an internet cafe nor at an hotel that has internet access. Where there is internet, it is usually limited by other people also wanting to use it and it can be costly - we have paid up to 10 pounds per hour for internet access. This is why the log, sometimes and the photos, always, are behind the times. We visit a few places and get the " Oh hello English tourists. Isn't your pound doing well against the dollar"? This always results in silly prices that are surprisingly reduced from astronomical prices. The last question as we walk away is always " Well, what price did you have in mind?" We have even been offered (very good looking) refurbished laptops as new ones. Talk about the urban jungle!! Temperatures are now back in mid 80's, which they say is still high for this time of year.
Saturday 8th December
We hear at breakfast that NASA have now decided to delay the shuttle launch until Sunday afternoon
We get some good news from our own 'Mission Controller', Ben at Trailfinders in Manchester. Following the sinking of the 'Explorer' in the Antartic, he has searched and found a replacement ship and transferred most of the travel arrangements. What a star !! He has not yet informed us as to whether oars are included in this new trip but we'll see !!!
We decide to go on an Airboat ride and drive to 'The Lone Cabbage Fish Camp' at St. John's River.We pay and sign our lives away on their indemnity form and board the flat boat. We have to wear earmuffs and there's a real racket as the Captain opens up the engine. We follow established waterways through the swamp and although this is a little disappointing, to not be able to zip over the weed surface, we can understand that it's for ecological reasons and to protect the wildlife. The water is only 3 feet deep at most and this is proved when we round a bend and come to a crash stop to avoid running into a herd of cows that are crossing the waterway. They are brought down here by their owner, turned loose and left to graze. We ask about alligators and it seems that although they are around, the cows are too big for them to tackle. We also spotted a herd of horses grazing, along with various wild birds including a Mexican Eagle
For over 2 weeks now, wherever we've been, everyone is preparing for Christmas with gardens and houses decorated with lights and figures and all the stores playing Christmas music. We went to see the Titusville Christmas parade, which started at 6pm and took an hour and half to pass. Every organisation in the town and surrounding districts from police, fire, charities, services, societies and college marching bands all took part. The streets were lined with families and there was a real sense of community spirit over the whole event. It made me wonder why we don't have the same community spirit.
For supper I call in at my first 'Wendys', who make 'old fashioned burgers'. I order a 'double burger with cheese and jalopeno' with fries. I must admit it was quite tasty and I think Crocodile would have like it too!!!
Sunday 9th December
Launch day. We hear over breakfast that the launch of the Space Shuttle has been posponed until January. NO! NO! NO! NO! (screams and headbanging).
Seriously though, it's a good call. There's just too much at risk, both with the Shuttle, which only has another couple of years service and previous Shuttle losses took two and a half years to recover from. It would also jeopardise progress to the International Space Station if there was a loss at this time.
We go to the Kennedy Space Centre anyway to finish off our visit and the whole place has an air of disappointment. We go on the thrilling 'Space Shuttle Experience' ride which simulates a Shuttle Launch and watch the excellent Imax films. A walk round the 'rocket garden', which is a static display of all previous rockets and capsules (apart from the Saturn 5). A visit to the Astronauts Hall of Fame, which chronicles the whole history of manned space flight, was very well done and finished off another full day.
There was to be a launch of an Atlas 5 rocket with a military satelite on Monday 10th but this was stood down because of the Shuttle problems
Monday 10th December
We hear over breakfast - you know, NASA has its own television channel and website and yet you hear more from local knowledge, let's face it - how many people here are employed by NASA and their families are in on all the latest inside knowledge. Breakfast - the Atlas 5 should be going up this afternoon at 5.03pm. We have talked to several people here with laptops and received technical guidance from back home (thanks JHS), so we go to a local (40 miles away) 'Best Buy' store, which is like our Comet / Currys at home. A helpful sales assistant guides us ( hey, I gave this stuff up 5 years ago !) and we buy a HP 'Pavillion' with all the gubbins. They have a sofware section called "The Geek Squad" (listen - I couldn't make this up) who will load the anti - virus and spyware packages and we can come back this afternoon to collect.
We drive through 'Melbourne' and stop at a Greek cafe for a gyro, (wrap), where I get chance to speak Greek for the second time in a month
Buzzing we drive back to 'Best Buy' and pick up the new member of our expedition. Do we call him HP, 'Lappy' ? Suggestions on a 1000 dollar note to .......... What, no - its got to be a 'he' cos it's so clever. I"d better not give our location after that remark!!
Thanks Titusville, its been a memorable stay. I was certain last Wednesday that the hotels were chipping in a backhander to NASA to delay the launch, cos there were so many people here to see it - no, only kidding !! Had a really good visit and yes, for once I've got the Tee shirt ! Now it's time to move on.