Monday, June 25, 2007

I'm a Rocket Man!

Well, no, that's not true. But NASA's tour of the Kennedy Space Center makes me think about it all the same.

I thought I'd put some pictures on here for you to see. Looking through what we took, some of them are cool, and some . . . well, I don't think anybody out in the intertubes really cares about some of these shots. Click on the photos to see the full-sized image.

This isn't technically where the tour started, but it's a good enough pictures to begin with. This is the bottom of a Saturn V rocket, the type of rocket used through the Gemini and Apollo programs, up until the space shuttle was developed. It's hard to tell from the picture, but those exhaust ports there have a diameter of about 7 feet (IIRC). You probably don't want to be anywhere near one when it's firing.

This structure, as seen from the tour bus (the other views aren't nearly as good) is the Vehicular Assembly Building. The VAB is supposedly one of the largest buildings by volume in the world, the largest until a few years ago. I don't know what surpassed it. However, it can supposedly hold 3.75 Empire State Buildings, so it's pretty big. And that flag on the building's side? When it was first painted a few decades ago, it took 60,000 gallons of paint to complete it.

In this building, the shuttle is assembled with the secondary rockets. Neat.

In case you don't know what the secondary rockets look like, there they are. That's actually the display at the front of Kennedy. I guess you can't just put those things out for trash pickup.

Here's one of the launch platforms. It's not a great view, but this was as close as we were gonna get.

This is one of the things we were lucky to see that day. Lumbering away from the launch pad, you see the shuttle platform/crawler.

This monster of modern engineering essentially consists of four trucks carrying a massive array which will hold the shuttle and ferry it to the launch platform. Weighing anywhere from 6 to 9 million pounds (I heard both numbers), it is truly a sight to behold. Moving at speeds up to 1 mph, it can position itself to +/- 1 inch, which is necessary in lining the shuttle up properly at the launch pad.

You really don't get an idea of how massive this thing is until you see it closer up. Those spots down there by the treads are people. They look like toys next to the thing. Those treads? Each weighs one ton. Truly enormous.

The next set of photos comes from the portion of Kennedy devoted to the International Space Station. There's an observation deck where you can watch the work on portions of the station that will be going into space. No flash photography, of course, but you can still take normal photos. Not that there's anything spectacular to see here, but it's neat all the same.

There are some things I wanted to have pictures of, but the opportunities were lost. Atlantis was to land on the day we were there, but it was too overcast for the shuttle to land and was delayed by a day. I'm not sure there would have been much to see, as you can only be so close to the landing site and it's not nearly as dramatic as a launch, but it still would have been cool. Ah well. The trip was still worth it. I highly recommend you take the tour if you're ever in central Florida.

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