2009 - Day 1
Space Center Visitor Center
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11/13/200 Day 1: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center
the first day of our Florida trip to see the NASA STS-129 Shuttle
Atlantis Launch, we decided to tour the Kennedy Space Center Visitors
Center to see the exhibits and take the Up-Close Shuttle Bus Tour
of the complex. We knew we were going to be back on Monday the
16th for the shuttle launch, but wanted to take a day on site
before the launch day so we could take our time and see everything
we wanted to without feeling rushed on launch day. Plus, some
of the tours and exhibits might be closed on launch day, and Dad
made the great move of getting us Up-Close tour bus tickets for
Friday, which promised to get us closer to the shuttle launch
(it did not disappoint).
arrived at the Visitor Center Friday morning and proceeded to
walk through the rocket garden. The rocket garden has a collection
of the early rockets the United States used to get astronauts
and payloads into space. There is a Mercury Redstone, like the
one Alan Shepard used to be the first American in Space, and a
Saturn rocket, similar to the humongous Saturn V, as well as an
assortment of capsules and many informative plaques and descriptions.
Dad and I even sat in some of the replicas. It was pretty neat,
and tough to get all the rockets into the camera frames.
viewing the Rocket Garden, we went to the Astronaut Memorial,
and saw a brief presentation on NASA today, which showed some
live remote camera views of the prep work that was being completed
for the upcoming shuttle launch. It was pretty informative, and
neat to see. Then we went and saw the 3D IMAX movie about the
International Space Station, and it was on to the main event,
the Up-Close Bus Tour.
Up-Close tour was really great and well worth the extra $20 it
costs. We got to ride out to the NASA Causeway where we would
be watching the STS-129 launch from on Monday. We could also see
the Atlas V rocket which was supposed to be launching Intelsat
14 early Saturday morning, and the Delta IV rocket in its assembly
building which was to launch later in the next week, but got delayed.
We could tell that we were going to have some prime viewing spots
for the launch. The shuttle was on Pad 39A, although most of it
was obscured because the control structure was in place. NASA
Launch Pad 39A, where Atlantis would launch from is 6 miles away
from the causeway. Pad 39B, converted for the Ares Rocket Program
is slightly farther away. The Delta IV and Atlas V are US Air
Force Launch Sites, and not accessible or viewable to the public.
Views from the causeway.
the launch sites and rockets from the causeway, we got back on
the bus and headed towards the large Vehicle Assembly Building.
We made a right and drove past the standard tour viewing platform
(3 miles away) and headed towards a closer tour viewing area.
We drove past the 39B launch pad and past a couple NASA crawlers.
Then we made it to a viewing area midway between pads 39A and
39B. It was really close. We stayed there a while and viewed both
pads. Shuttle Atlantis was on 39A. We also saw a tortoise burying
eggs, and a NASA T-38 Jet fighter flew over. It was very close,
very cool, and well worth the trip.
at the viewing platform I was able to use my super zoom lense
to get an image of one of the USGS Benchmarks in the excluded
camera pad area. Its designation is "KAREN".
viewing the shuttle and launch pads, we went to the huge Vehicle
Assembly Building (VAB). The VAB is the largest building in the
world by volume. It is over 500 feet high, and each star on the
giant American flag is 6 feet in diameter. Each stripe is 9 feet
in diameter. The VAB was built to assemble the huge Saturn V rocket.
Today's shuttle is half that size. When we visited, vultures were
using the heat waves off the building to soar. More info on the
VAB is available on Wikipedia.
did a drive by of the really loooonng NASA landing strip after
our stop at the VAB. It was not very exciting, just a huge runway.
the runway drive-by we ended our bus tour at the Saturn V building.
This rocket is huge! To big for my zoom lens, so I'll have to
wait for some pictures from Dad to post here. It was neat to see
the rocket, touch a moon rock, and get a bit to eat. The Saturn
V building is near the bleachers where the extended family of
the astronauts get to view the launch. More info on the giant
Saturn V rocket is available on Wikipedia.
the bus tour, we returned to the visitor center and rode the NASA
Launch Experience, which was amusing, and toured the shuttle bay
in their full size shuttle on sight. Then it was back to the hotel.
The Intelsat 14 satellite was due to blast off on the Atlas V
rocket we saw earlier at 12:48am that night. So we got some rest
and went out to the beach at 12:30am to watch the launch. Unfortunately
unknown to us, the launch was scrubbed at 12:35am and we ended
up staying out on the beach until 2:15am before giving up on it
that morning. Doh!
always, larger pictures of our full trip to Florida are available
from my Flickr
photo gallery. Day 2 includes our trip to Daytona Speedway.