Launch a Rocket in Cape Canaverel

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Thursday, March 31, 2011

After Walt Disney announced plans to build Disney World, Orlando Florida quickly transformed into a tourist destination with more theme parks and entertainment attractions than anywhere in the world. With the most hotels in the world and the 2nd most hotel rooms, second to only Las Vegas, there is no shortage of reasonably priced accommodations.  During your stay in one of America's most visited cities, be sure to check out Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios and the Kennedy Space Center.

Disney World

Opened on October 1, 1971 with the Magic Kingdom theme park, Disney World has since expanded to include four theme parks, two water parks and 23on-site themed resort hotels. After a day at the Magical Kingdom, be sure to check out Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.

EPCOT, which is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, was originally planned by Walt Disney to be a test bed for a model community but instead opened as a theme park with a global innovation theme.

Hollywood Studios was inspired by 1930’s and 40’s Hollywood heyday.  Be sure to check out the American Idol Experience where finalists can win a ticket to the front of the line at a real American Idol audition.   

Animal Kingdom, the fourth park built at Disney World, is entirely themed around animal conservation – a philosophy held dear by Walt Disney himself.  Visitors get to interact with real animals and enjoy such thrill rides as Expedition Everest – a rollercoaster train ride through the Himalayas.

Universal Studios

              The Universal Orlando resort is comprised of three sections: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure (both theme parks) and Universal CityWalk – the place to go for evening entertainment.  

Opened in 1990 with a movie and television theme, Universal Studios is divided into six sections: Production Central, New York, San Francisco/Amity, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone and Hollywood.  Unlike Universal Studios in Hollywood, a working film and television studio turned tourist attraction and theme park, Universal Studios Florida was designed right from the start to be a theme park and studio.

Islands of Adventure consist of seven islands: Port of Entry, Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Naturally Harry Potter fans from all over the world have been flocking to this must see attraction so be sure to get their early to avoid lineups.

Sea World

              When people think of Sea World, the zoological and marine-life theme park, the name Shamu usually comes to mind.  Shamu was the fourth killer whale ever captured and the first to survive over 13 months in captivity.  Most people know her as the star of the killer whale show at San Diego’s SeaWorld in the 1960’s. 

Captured by Ted Griffin in Seattle in 1965, she was intended as a companion for Namu, a killer whale at Griffin’s public aquarium, hence the Shamu (she-namu).  However, the two did not get along and that is why so Ted sold her to SeaWorld.  She died in 1971, from an unspecified infection but her name continued to be used for the killer whale shows.  Be sure to catch the Shamu show at Sea World and get there early as the seats fill up fast.

Kennedy Space Center

  Hours after the United States launched their first man into space in 1961 President John F. Kennedy announced a national goal of landing a man on the moon.  The Soviets were winning the space race, one of many silent battles during the Cold War, with two major victories: Sputnik 1 – the first satellite into space and Yuri Gararin – the first human to travel into space. The Americans were scrambling to catch up and gain supremacy in outer space and if the Apollo Program was successful, it would push them into the lead.  This goal was accomplished by the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit.  The pair were only allotted 2.5 hours outside the module during which time they planted an American flag, set up the Early Apollo Scientific Experimentation Package and left a small package of memorial items in honour of deceased Soviet cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space) who died in a plane crash and Vladimir Komarov, the first human to die during a space mission as well as the Apollo 1 astronauts.   Subsequent missions were allotted up to and over 21 hours of moon exploration.  It was this dream that lead to the construction of the Kennedy Space Center and the subsequent visitor’s complex.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex not only has a large collection of historic spacecraft and memorabilia from the space program, it also features two IMAX theatres, the United States Astronauts Hall of Fame, the Apollo/Saturn V Center, a viewing platform of Launch Complex 39 as well as the Shuttle Launch Experience – a simulator that gives people a feeling for what it is like to be launched into space

And that may be the only way to launch into space from the United States for a few years as the Vision for Space Exploration, announced by President George W. Bush in 2004, called for the space program to complete the International Space Station by 2010 and then retire the Space Shuttle to make way for the development of a new crew exploration vehicle that would enable manned missions to Mars and beyond.

Officially called the Space Transportation System, NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, which was started in the late 1960’s, manages the only winged manned spacecraft to achieve orbit and landing.

The reusable orbiter crafts are launched vertically carrying up to 8 astronauts and up to 50,000 pounds of payload in to orbit with the help of two reusable solid rocket boosters (SBR) and an expendable external tank (ET) containing liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.  The SBR’s are removed from the craft by explosive bolts about 2 minutes after liftoff and are parachuted into the ocean where they are recovered by ships and refurbished for reuse. The ET remains with the orbiter until it reaches 17,500 mph, the speed necessary for low Earth orbit.  At this time the main engines are shut down and the ET is jettisoned downward where it will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

After completion of the mission, most of which last from several days to two weeks, it is then able to independently remove itself from orbit by means of its Maneuvering System and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.  During reentry, the orbiter heats up to over 1,500 degrees Celsius and would disintegrate were it not for the thermal protective system which includes LI-900 Silica ceramics that cover its underside.   Once in the lower atmosphere the orbiter acts like a conventional glider except that it has a much higher descent rate.  Aerodynamic braking slows it down from 424 mph to 215 mph at touchdown compared to 160 mph for a jet airliner.  The landing gear is lowered prior to touchdown and a drag chute is deployed to slow the craft down once on the runway.

Check the space center’s website for launch schedules and witness a rocket launch from nearby Titusville or Cocoa Beach.

Check out my Orlando videos on YouTube
Sea World

Kennedy Space Center

Florida Happy Dance

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