Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kennedy Space Center & Cape Canaveral - (Scottsmoor, FL)

Just an explanation of my titles to these posts. Since we'll be moving around I'm posting the name of the closest town to where we are staying in parentheses after the post title. So in today's title, Kennedy Space Center is not at Scottsmoor, but is located east of Titusville. We are staying near Scottsmoor.

Now on to yesterday. We spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center, also known as KSC by the people who work there. Lots to see at the Space Center and I think we saw it all.

This is the shuttle Explorer.
And this is the main fuel tank and 2 rockets to propel it into space. It is huge.

We decided to take the guided tour, The Cape, Then & Now. I mentioned in a previous post that Dan was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base which is south of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Cape Canaveral is a military base and is NOT part of Kennedy Space Center. Dan punched a time clock for Boeing Company, who had a contract at Cape Canaveral with the military to build Bomarc missiles. Boeing used military personnel from Patrick AFB as support for the project.

Our tour took us to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and to the Air Force Space & Missile Museum. The museum highlights the Air Force as a major participant in America's space program beginning in early 1950 through today.

The museum includes the original blockhouse, with two-foot thick walls, situated 400 feet from twin launch pads. After passing through the outer blast doors, visitors enter the firing rooms furnished with original computers, consoles and launch support equipment. At one time this was state-of-the-art, but of course, is now obsolete. The area around the museum is now called "Rocket Garden" and you can walk among the various rockets that were launched from here.

One wall of computers in the blockhouse. Remember, this was the 1950's and 60's.
I thought this sign was pretty clever.

As Dan looked out one of the windows, he said, "That's a Bomarc out there." Of course, we had to go look at it. Just like the Link Trainer story, I've heard stories of his time at The Cape working on the Bomarc, but never knew what a Bomarc missile looked like. But I soon found out. Sixty-seven Bomarcs were launched from Cape Canaveral between September 10, 1952 and April 16, 1960. Dan worked on the refrigeration portion of this missile.

Our guide pointed out this mural of Alan Shephard on the side of the blockhouse. He was the first American in Space, May 5, 1961. Check out the expression on his face and his eyes. This picture was taken after he had been in the capsule for four hours prior to launch. I can't even imagine what he must have been thinking.

Our tour of Cape Canaveral ended at Launch Complex 34 where Astronauts, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives on January 27, 1967 as they were doing a test run on the pad for Apollo 1. From the time the fire broke out until they died, was 17 seconds. 100% oxygen is pumped into the capsule, so when the fire started they didn't have a chance to get out.

Our guide talked about the many rocket and missile launches from the Cape which never made it off the ground and the years of research and training that go into each launch. And the changes that are made based on each previous experience. Dan has also spoken of the various missile launches that were attempted and never made it off the ground, but until you've stood where these men died, you don't really appreciate what has gone into our space program.

On a lighter note, this lighthouse has been on Cape Canaveral since the 1800's. Dan remembers comments from the servicemen wondering if the lighthouse had been launched. But it was still there. Our guide also commented that people still ask when the lighthouse will be launched. :)

And an explanation of Cape Canaveral and Cape Kennedy, in case you wondered. The Kennedy Space Center is owned and operated by NASA. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was renamed Cape Kennedy after President Kennedy's death. The name change caused such confusion that the Air Force Station name was changed back to Cape Canaveral about 10 years later in the early 70's. People still ask to see Cape Kennedy. :)

We're beginning to get "hitch-itch" so we'll probably be moving on in a couple of days. We'll be starting back toward Illinois, but will take 2-3 weeks to get there, so hopefully the ice and snow will be gone. Stay tuned for where we land next.

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More later......

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