Friday, January 20, 2012

Rocket science

The Kennedy Space Center isn’t a theme park as such. But there is a thrill ride, and even a lighthearted performance aimed at the young (and young at heart) in which NASA meets Star Trek. I was unable to obtain a tribble, although there were many being bombarded at the audience.

The format at the KSC started much the same as in Orlando, where we were marshalled into a space in one of the huge car parks near the Space Center. Free parking this time, so that was a bonus. Then we queued and were relieved of our cash. The place was a lot less crowded than Universal Studios. Fantasy, it seems, puts more bums on seats than reality.

Follow the, erm, Starfleet arrows

Our first port of call was the Shuttle simulator.

Just what it says on the box

I’d heard about this from a couple of years ago when my good friend and drinking buddy Mr Lawful Good of Cowplain visited the exact same spot. A mercifully short queue preceded a mission briefing. Unlike most thrill rides, in this one we were all told exactly what would happen, and we then filed into seats in the space shuttle cargo bay and were tipped backwards for the eight-minute trip into low earth orbit. On an absolute scale of thrill, the shuttle simulator wasn’t gut-wrenchin’, breakfast-losin’. However, it most certainly did give an extremely plausible impression of being launched upwards at enormous acceleration On the way up, there was even a minor malfunction to put the shits up the excessively suggestible.

Then the motors were killed, and we were dumped into the zero gravity of orbit. Not real zero-gee, obviously, and we were strapped into our seats so floating around would have been impossible anyway, but anyone with imagination should certainly get the effect when the bay doors open to reveal the Earth.

Very much as advertised, the Rocket Garden was a garden full of, well, rockets. Also a mockup of the walk from the tower to the White Room, from which an astronaut steps into the launch position. And the adjacent Saturn IIB is about half the size of the rocket designed and built for putting Mankind on the moon, with an added bonus for Mr Gorsky.

Rocket garden

Admission to the KSC includes a bus trip over to near the launch pads.

Where not to stand

We were regaled by a variety of garrulous bus drivers, who were determined to test us on the edu part of the KSC’s edutainment. Replying “Yuri Gagarin” when asked about the identity of the first Americans into space, into orbit or to do a spacewalk is probably not wise. Neither, incidentally, is it wise to suggest that the recent “Apollo 18” film is anything other than utter tripe. And even hinting to anyone that any part the Apollo program was faked on a sound stage in Nevada is tantamount to walking up to a Southern Gentleman and demanding satisfaction.

The actual Apollo 18 rocket, the gargantuan Saturn V, is in an enormous barn along with displays summarising brief histories of the Apollo programme, and even experts on hand to answer questions. I had a fascinating brief discussion about breathing gas, nitrox and carbon dioxide, with their particular relevance to Apollo 13.

Saturn V: The pointy end

As we left the Kennedy Space Center and headed back to the car park, we passed posters depicting satellite images of various parts of Earth. One of them did include Dubai and the northern emirates. An actual “I can see my house from here” moment.

More pictures here.


1 comment:

Mme Cyn said...

And for your geeky spouse, it was probably the best part of the road trip.


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