Like most formative aged kids growing up in the 60’s, I was fascinated by space flight.
I remember the summer of ’69 watching the historic “Eagle Has Landed” from our black and white TV of the first men on the moon. The politics of the space race weren’t a concern to me, I was more interested on how these men were lifted through the Earth’s atmosphere, defying gravity, into outer space-The Rocket Science! ! !
In fourth grade, I wrote a report on Michael Collins who orbited the moon in a space ship while Neil and Buzz (Aldrin NOT Lightyear) planted an American flag and golfed on the moon. I kind of felt bad for Michael, not lost, but all alone in space while the others played on the moon and got all the lunar (First Men On The Moon!!!) headlines and glory.
Last week we took a break from the crowded spaces in the Florida theme parks to see the uncrowded spaces at the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral. So much space in fact that it IS possible to get lost.
Before launch time, we browsed the interactive Apollo era exhibits and felt, first hand, an actual moon rock: a flat, smooth rock about the size of a quarter. The evolution of the space suits, space modules, space food, and everything to do with living in space at the Apollo/Saturn Center was completely riveting.
Then we had lunch.
Along with the bus tour of the various launch pads, we were also treated to a swamp tour we didn’t have time for earlier in the week. As the tour bus driver pointed out all the interesting NASA and SPACE X rocket paraphernalia, he also showed us the various animal life in the protected area surrounding the cape including bald eagles and alligators. A one hour swamp tour in these parts will run about $50. Both space and swamp tours were included in one fell swoop with the space center admission price. Bonus!
Back at the Shuttle Launch Experience we learned about the 30-year space shuttle era. The retired shuttle Atlantis is on display and is an impressive sight to see up close- just amazing, the science of space.
Finally, it was launch time. We stored our packs, personal items, and anything that may float away with zero gravity in a storage (payload) locker. We were briefed on the safety of the simulated shuttle launch and the countdown began…three, two, one. Lift Off!!
Buckled into our seats, flat on our backs, the explosive sounds generated by the rockets propelling us into space was incredible. Every bone in our bodies vibrated with tremendous thrust. G-forces glued us back into our seats and our cheeks into our jaws. As we approached separation from the solid fuel rocket, we leveled off and the ride was smooth. From here the beauty of Mother Earth was far behind and just below us. Simply Awesome!
One of the most compelling quotes I took away from our day at the Kennedy Space Center last week was from Gene Cernan- the LAST man on the moon…
“We leave as we came and, god willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”