Friday, July 22, 2011

Kennedy Space Center or Going with the Flow...

It was our first day in Florida. We got off the plane around seven in the morning, grabbed a quick and disappointing breakfast at a restaurant whose name I can't remember, located the hotel we couldn't check in to yet, and bought a few supplies. Then we decided the intelligent thing to do was determine exactly how long it would take us to drive to the Astronaut's Hall of Fame in Titusville where we would watch the shuttle launch on July 8th, so we made the drive.
So far, this was exactly what I'd expected for the morning, but, I wanted to to find a beach and stare at the water for a while. Maybe take a little dip in the ocean, but I was still undecided on that one. I really wanted to do something where there would be no photos taken, I wouldn't feel selfconscious, and very little energy would be required. When my husband suggested we see if the Kennedy Space Center was open, I took one look at his excited face and decided not to remind him I wanted to go relax on the beach. So the Kennedy Space Center it was. Remember, I'm practicing at going with the flow...
I looked down at my sleeveless, coral t-shirt. Somehow it had gotten so stretched out on the plane, it looked a bit indecent. I looked in the mirror and rolled my eyes. My hair looked like... well, like what it was - unwashed and unbrushed... I didn't quite have the courage to sniff my underarms... I groaned. People and pictures looking like a wreck. Oh joy!
We pulled in the Kennedy Space Center parking lot. It was open but not too crowded. I decided it might be okay after all. I looked in the mirror again and adjusted my shirt yet again. This just wasn't going to work. A few minutes later, I stood at the trunk of the car, opened my suitcase, applied fresh deodorant and brushed my hair. Yes, standing in the parking lot. I pulled a shirt out of the suitcase and stared at it for a minute trying to decide whether to just risk it and change right there or find a more secluded spot. I ended up doing something I haven't done in years. I changed my shirt in the back seat of the car. I pulled off the stretched out t-shirt and sat there in my bra and shorts feeling... well, rather free... Then I pulled the fresh shirt over my head, ran the brush through my hair again, and stepped out, smiling. "I'm ready."
There's a lot of the stuff you would expect at the Kennedy Space Center. Displays of shuttles, rockets, cardboard cutouts that look like astronaut suits you can stick your head through and look like... well, like you're sticking your head through a cardboard cutout, a ride that "simulates" a shuttle launch from inside the cockpit (yeah, right!), and a bus tour of the space center. There are also a couple of other tours that sounded pretty interesting but neither was available that day. Oh, and let's not forget the multiple gift shops...
We signed up for the bus tour and headed in. My husband was anxious to start seeing things.
I shook my head and sighed. My energy was positively drained, so I bought a cup of fake energy - that's right folks, coffee - well, a latte to be precise. Then we noticed the next bus tour was about to leave. They leave every fifteen minutes, so we rushed over to catch the bus.
I settled into my seat on the bus and started sipping my coffee. Honestly, I was disappointed. Air-conditioned car to air-conditioned bus. When was I going to get to enjoy the heat and humidity. (I see you rolling your eyes. Go ahead. Done now? Can we return to our regularly scheduled programming?) And, the latte wasn't so great either, but it was caffeine. Caffeine that was badly needed at that point. I stared out the window while my husband played with his camera. He got a new one for this trip...
The bus driver told us something. Huh? Oh, well, missed that. Then a video started playing telling us about... the space program, what we were seeing, etc. etc. Honestly, I wasn't paying much attention. I was daydreaming - or as we writers like to call it, imagining story ideas. :-)
My husband took pictures of the Vehicle Assembly Building which apparently is one of the largest buildings in existence by cubic footage and apparently is where things are assembled. God, I'm as bad as a child. All I saw a building with a huge American flag and the NASA symbol painted on it. Now, if they'd let me go inside... but, well, that wasn't going to happen.
We reached the Observation Gantry where a crawler-transporter was parked nearby. Now that was cool! It's huge and looks like it can actually do something! Well, it does. It transports the shuttle from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad at a very slow but steady and safe pace. I wanted to ride - or at least sit - on it, but it was behind lock and key. All the fun stuff was off-limits...
There was  a Space Shuttle Main Engine in the Observation Gantry. It projected a certain artistry and beauty in its design, at least to my eye. (and, no, I don't know who the guy in the pic is.) From the Observation Gantry we could see the launch pad and views of the surrounding area including the Vehicle Assembly Building and other launch pads. Placards along the way described what was visible from a given area.
The view of the launch pad from the three levels varied slightly. Atlantis was already on the launch pad but wasn't visible though the top of the external fuel tank (the orange thing) and one of the solid rocket boosters (the white thing next to the orange thing) was. We spent a lot of time at the Observation Gantry. They had those little observation things you put a quarter (is it still a quarter? I didn't check.) in to see the shuttle launch pad better, but we used the long lens on the camera to get a better view instead.  
The second stop on the bus tour was the Apollo/Saturn V Center. This started with a video and moved on to another video. The second was in front of the command center. It was interesting. I hope this stuff is taught in history classes but wondered based on some clueless faces I noticed. After the second video, we were released into a musuem where much Apollo memorabilia was on display. Exiting through the gift shop was a requirement.
Back at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, we decided to ride the Shuttle Launch Experience... Okay, it seemed like an interesting change of pace from taking pictures. Here's the gist of it. They give you a lot of warnings, a narrator talks through abbreviated launch procedures, and you shake a lot. Let's be honest, it's designed for children at least 44-inches tall to be able to ride, so it's not going to rock an adult's world by any means.  Still, it provided a silly break in the day.
In the Visitor's Complex, visitors are on their own to browse the Memorial, the shuttle, the rocket garden, and so on. So we wandered around and posed for pictures. And posed for pictures. And posed for pictures. Oh, and did I mention we posed for pictures.
There are some really cool things to see at the Kennedy Space Center, and I'm glad we took the day to spend there if for no other reason than the view from the Observation Gantry, especially through the camera lens, made not being able to see the launch pad on launch day a little easier to handle.
And, to think I wanted to waste the day sitting on the beach...

1 comment:

  1. Did you catch that? The observation GANT-ry? We're famous...

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