Kennedy Space Center

Today, I dropped Cindy off at the Orlando Airport and then continued on to Lakeland to begin my last string of shifts at the Lakeland Regional Medical Center Emergency Department. I will work 18 shifts over the next 17 days. You can say a prayer for me if you wish. Cindy will spend a couple of weeks with her family before rejoining me in Lakeland for a few days before our trip (by plane) to the Holy Land.

Yesterday, Cindy and I enjoyed a fun day out at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). We lived in Central Florida for 14 1/2 years and never visited the KSC. We talked about it, but never went. Now that we were in Titusville, we had no excuse. So, we spent the day yesterday being awed by our country’s space program. We couldn’t help but feel emotional when confronted with the accomplishments of our fellow Americans – the dreams they dreamed, the obstacles they overcame, the risks they took, and the goals they achieved.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Upon arrival, we wandered through the Rocket Garden, consisting of various Atlas and Titan rockets and Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules. Many of these rockets had their origins as ICMBs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles), designed to deliver nuclear bombs to Russia. When the space program arose in the 60’s, we were at the height of the cold war with the Soviet Union. In a fortuitous case of swords being beaten into plowshares, these rockets found their ultimate use in propelling humans into space.

The Rocket Garden (All are actual rockets, but one)

The Rocket Garden (All are actual rockets, but one)

In the command module

In the command module

The first of two big highlights on the trip to KSC was visiting the retired Space Shuttle Atlantis. Over its 33 missions, it covered 126,000,000 miles. We were stricken with the size of Atlantis. It was much bigger in person than we had imagined. After viewing Atlantis, Cindy and I rode the high-tech launch simulator which simulated a launch onboard a space shuttle.

Actual size of the External Fuel Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters used for Shuttle Launches

Actual size of the External Fuel Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters used for Shuttle Launches

The nose portion of Atlantis

The nose portion of Atlantis

The tail section of Atlantis

The tail section of Atlantis

The Admiral trying her hand at Space Shuttle piloting

The Admiral trying her hand at Space Shuttle piloting

The underside of Atlantis with all those thermal protective tiles

The underside of Atlantis with all those thermal protective tiles

The Astrovan, used to transport Astronauts.

The Astrovan, used to transport Astronauts.

We then took a bus tour (we paid a little extra for an upgraded tour), visiting various launch pads, the Shuttle Landing Facility, various NASA buildings, and the Mobile Launch Platform. We also, unexpectedly, saw on this tour bald eagles and their nests, alligators, wild turkeys and other wild-life. The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge occupies most of the land owned by Kennedy Space Center. We visited the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, and the largest single-story building in the world. Now that the Space Shuttle program has been discontinued, this building and launchpads are being modified for use in the Space Launch System (SLS), the shuttle-derived replacement launch system. It is hoped that the SLS will be sending manned flights to Mars in a few years.

One of the many launchpads.  This rocket (visible on the pad in front of the building) is scheduled to launch tomorrow.

One of the many launchpads. This rocket (visible on the pad in front of the building) is scheduled to launch tomorrow.

The Mobile Launcher Platform on Crawler/Transporter (when loaded with the shuttle the whole assembly weighed 18 million pounds)

The Mobile Launcher Platform on Crawler/Transporter (when loaded with the shuttle the whole assembly weighed 18 million pounds)

A look at Launch Pad 39A, from which every Apollo mission in which there was a moonwalk and many shuttle missions launched.

A look at Launch Pad 39A, from which every Apollo mission in which there was a moonwalk and many shuttle missions launched.

A look at Launch Pad 39B, from which other Apollo and Shuttle missions were launched (including the Challenger Disaster Launch in 1986)

A look at Launch Pad 39B, from which other Apollo and Shuttle missions were launched (including the Challenger Disaster Launch in 1986)

The Massive VAB (the blue background for the stars on the painted-on flag is the size of a basketball court)

The Massive VAB (the blue background for the stars on the painted-on flag is the size of a basketball court)

The Launch Abort System for the new Orion rocket to be used in the SLS

The Launch Abort System for the new Orion rocket to be used in the SLS

The Shuttle Landing Site

The Shuttle Landing Site

Roadside Eagle's nest (home to 2 parents and 2 babies)

Roadside Eagle’s nest (home to 2 parents and 2 babies)

 Bald Eagle atop a pole near  the nest

Bald Eagle atop a pole near the nest

This little alligator enjoying the parade of tourists on the tour bus

This little alligator enjoying the parade of tourists on the tour bus

The second big highlight of the KSC trip was visiting the Apollo/Saturn V Center. The Saturn V was the rocket designed for use in the Apollo missions which sent man to the moon. After visiting a theater simulating the firing room for the Apollo 8 mission (which contains the actual desks/pods from the original firing room), we were awed by an actual Saturn V rocket… Massive! After lunch, we touched a moon rock (one of only two places in which this can be done; the other being the Smithsonian).

Firing Room desks used in launch of Apollo 8

Firing Room desks used in launch of Apollo 8

The engine end of the Saturn V

The engine end of the Saturn V

Cindy in front of the 363-feet long Saturn V

Cindy in front of the 363-feet long Saturn V

The Apollo 14 command module, "Kitty Hawk"

The Apollo 14 command module, “Kitty Hawk”

Astronaut Alan Shepard's Spacesuit, feet covered with moondust from actual use on the moon

Astronaut Alan Shepard’s Spacesuit, feet covered with moondust from actual use on the moon

We ended our day at the KSC with one of the two IMAX movies which play throughout the day at the facility: Hubble 3D. We were both overcome by the vastness and beauty of the universe as seen through Hubble. Truly, we saw the handiwork of a Great Artist. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world… (Psalm 19).”

"Pillars of Creation" - NASA photo from Hubble Space Telescope

“Pillars of Creation” – NASA photo from Hubble Space Telescope

2 thoughts on “Kennedy Space Center

  1. Great recap of your tour of KSC. I saw it myself last year and enjoyed seeing it again through your photos! Atlantis certainly is impressive, a piece of US history that should be on everyone’s bucket list to see!

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