Today we headed back to the KSC for a more up close n personal tour of the facilities including the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and as close as non NASA personnel can get to launch pad 39A and B.
The VAB is one of the worlds largest enclosed spaces with an enormous height of 525ft (160m) or about 51.5 floors high, and has four times the volume of the Empire State Building. It is where the orbiter (or shuttle) is assembled onto the fuel tank and rocket blasters before being moved out to the launch pad by the enormous crawler transporter.
The building is just humongous and even once inside .. yep we got to go inside the VAB. Even once inside you still cant really appreciate now big this building really is. It was originally designed to be able to hold the Saturn V rockets used to launch the Apollo missions, the rocket boosters required for the shuttles are not as large however a plane structure was not envisaged in the beginning so when the shuttle is moved into the VAB its a delicate act of angles n dangling to maneuver it into place.
From the VAB we headed out to launch pad 39 A and B. All missions that put a man on the moon launched from LC 39A. These LC’s are now being refurbed to be able to take the next generation of missions that NASA will launch from the USA, likely to be in 2016. The LC’s are massive n gives some perspective on what it must be like to watch a launch .. even from 3-5 mile away about the closest anyone gets, for safety reasons.
Kinda makes you sad to think that there are generations of kids that will grow up never knowing what its like to even watch on tv the magic of a rocket or shuttle blasting off from Kennedy space station. And even though the cost of the space program has figures that have have way too many numbers in them, without the space race/journey you have to wonder how long would it have taken to develop the x-ray technology being used to screen for breast cancer, bone density analyzers. Cataract surgery, and voice controlled wheelchairs to name but a few of the everyday applications of the ‘spin offs’ from space technology.
One thing that did really stand out is, whilst they have a memorial garden there is no real memorial or shrine for those missions that never made it home, yet the lessons n procedures put in place because of those enabled them to achieve all that they have .. many of ‘forgotten’ missions sit in buildings almost in the back paddock hoping that people wont remember they are there .. very sad
From the LC and VAB it was back to the visitors centre to catch the other imax show we didnt get to see yesterday and then time to say goodbye to KSC
From KSC we took a drive just a little further up from the LCs to the cape Canaveral national seashore a joint undertaking between NASA n the national parks to preserve the reserve n wildlife in and around the space centre.
From the seashore it was time to feel some speed, NASCAR speed at Daytona international speedway .. we took the track tour n were lucky enough to have the Richard petty crew out with a car on the track giving rides so we got sample what it might be like to see these speed machines zoom around the track .. pretty cool, can see why people get addicted the sound of that car going round the track is pretty awesome. The track and centre area can hold approx 200,000 people in what i can only imagine is somehow organized chaos when there is a race on.
With a nasty storm brewing again we took the interstate n headed for Jacksonville where once again Florida state parks had us scrambling for accommodation with the park gates being closed .. what the hell is with that people!! With that little set back we headed up the interstate a little further to the trusty KOA where a campsite was awaiting our after hours arrival .. Ahhh .. Now for some fried chicken for dinner 🙂