Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Kennedy Space Center: part 3


with Carla Anderson

            Our afternoon visit to the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Fla., began with a forty- minute bus ride around the grounds where we viewed the various lift-off  sites for the  rockets and shuttles.  A wide roadway had been cleared for the giant crawler-transporter which  is used to move spacecraft onto the launching pad.  The crawler can carry 18 million pounds at a rate of one mile an hour and uses up a gallon of gas for every 32 feet.  

            The landing area for the space shuttles was also noteworthy, not only for its length but because it is now being used primarily by commercial companies that will be helping  to develop new kinds of space vehicles and to transport astronauts and supplies to and from the space station.  There had been 16 unmanned launches of shuttles carrying supplies to the space station in 2014.  Pad 39A will be reserved for non-governmental programs and commercial rockets. 

A launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center

            When we were dropped off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, we entered a large room with multiple screens giving us a visual history of the program to place a man on the moon.  This included shots of the many failures of rockets to function well and the death of three of the astronauts in January 1967 when fire swept the Apollo 1 during a ground test.  Lessons were learned and it was almost two years later in December of 1968 that Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. 

             Doors were opened into the next area holding the actual launch consoles used by NASA during the Apollo period.  On three screens we watched the launching of Apollo 8.  In July of 1969 Apollo 11 landed Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin on the moon.  Twenty-four astronauts have made the voyage to the moon, three of them twice.

            `Next we moved into a massive area that had a fully restored 365-foot Saturn V rocket like the ones that transported the astronauts to the moon and back.  It is one of only three Saturn V rockets still in existence. Workers had been able to assemble the available  different parts of the rocket that had been manufactured for Apollo missions.

A reconstructed Saturn Space Rocket

            Docents answered questions and gave information about other items such as the Apollo 14 command module, a reproduction of a moon-landing shuttle on view along with different types of astronaut space suits, a moon rock, and a landing rover. One of the space suits was Alan Shepard’s that was preserved with moon dust still on the boots,

            The near disaster of Apollo 13 with Jim Lovell, that had to be aborted because part of the module blew off, was also discussed; his flight suit is part of the exhibition.  We enjoyed learning many details, such as the average Apollo astronaut was 32.5 years old, weighed 164 pounds, was five foot ten inches tall, was married with two children, had one dog and drove a Corvette.  Twelve of them walked on the moon.

            A little later at the Road Scholar program we were attending, we watched the movie  Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks so we were able to understand even more fully what we had been seeing that afternoon.

Snoopy honors man's wall on the moon

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