NASA and Kennedy Space Center

It’s difficult to find words to describe the experience of visiting Kennedy Space Center. The whole place is just full of awesome space memorabilia, and NASA have done a great job of recreating many historic moments. There are several “experiences” you can go through – from reliving the launch of Apollo 11 from the launch command center at Cape Canaveral, experiencing G-force at launch via a centrifugal force sim, the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon. It’s all very well done and surprisingly emotional, I even had a tear or two at times, particularly for the Apollo launch recreation.

Anyway, here are just a few shots of my day out there.

No post about space on a photography blog would be complete without picture of cameras used to take photos from space!

The interior of the Gemini module which was the first 2-up manned module launched in space. Longest mission was just under 14 days. I couldn’t imagine surviving in one of those tin cans for one day let alone 14! At least they had each other’s company and it wasn’t like Mercury where you were all on your own and in even more cramped conditions.

Space suite used in the Apollo missions when on the moon. I think this was used from Apollo 13 onwards – the red stripes denote the commander on the mission. Of course, Apollo 13 never made it on the moon, just a slingshot orbit around it, but the suit amendments never stopped even in the latter missions.

The launch center of the Mercury and Gemini missions (I think). NASA say this is untouched and I find it amazing to see how 1960’s technology complete with rotary-dial telephones achieved getting men safely into space and back.

One of the highlights of the day – “lunch with an Astronaut”. I was privileged to have the presence of Susan Kilrain who went into space twice on two separate Space Shuttle missions (STS-83 from 4th to 8th April 1997 and STS-94 from 1st to 17th July 1997). And she (and I’m sure pretty much every other astronaut) rocks! Lovely anecdotes and stories or a truly inspring woman. If you ever go to KSC, the lunch with an astronaut is worthwhile experience. Respect to her and all other astronauts!

After having a quick walkaround at the visitor complex, I hopped onto one of the buses and went to the Apollo / Saturn area. Below are a few shots of the Saturn 5 rocket – and it’s huge! The technology used is impressive for that era and even though it’s big, you’re constantly amazed at the detail at the smallest level. Those F-1 engines are just amazing!

Photo of the actual Apollo 14 (I think) capsule that made it to the moon and back to earth. To think three people live in that for several days and do half a million miles is just incredible. The carbon deposits on the bottom give an idea of the temperatures this thing has to go through as it reenters the earth’s atmosphere.

Close-up view of the hatch. To think that this small thin hatch is what keeps you protected against the vacuum of space…..

Space suit worn in the apollo missions when in the capsule. The helmets were worn during take off and landing, but were removed once in space.

World’s first videos from outer space and from the moon came from one of these devices.

Fast forward 25 years, and here’s the cockit of a Space Shuttle. Looks remarkably like a normal airliner cockpit, only that you don’t have any engines to control after launch!

Shot of the galley below the cockpit. It’s a bit like a Boeing 747 – cockpit is above and galley is below. The photo shows the hatch leading to the outside. Just out of shot to the right, there’s the airlock chamber which links the galley to the cargo bay (unpressurised).

Unfortunately, the day or half day I had flew by (no pun intended!) and there’s so much to see I didn’t get round to doing. If / when I have the chance, I’d love to go back and do some of the simulators I didn’t get the chance (Shuttle launch simulator is one of them). There are so many photo opportunities and a massive collection of space memorabilia, I’d really recommend this to families with kids interested in science. It’s a great alternative to the commercial-sick of Disneyland and other theme parks. I didn’t know that NASA fund the visitor complex entirely from ticketing and no tax money goes towards it.

At the same time, it’s a shame to think that I originally had the day planned to view the last launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour, but didn’t get to see it as it was delayed. Discovery’s last launch was a few days previous to the trip and I’d hoped that it too would get delayed a bit more for me to see, but wasn’t so. The Space Shuttle is at the end of its life and something Susan explained: they’re getting past their “best use” date and the risk of using them is slowly going up. So give it another few months and at least NASA won’t be going into space or the moon, something that had been happening since the late 1960s. But still, onwards and upwards, and NASA continues to bring technological advances to everyday life through its research.

One thing for sure though – like just about every other kid, I was amazed and inspired by all Space stuff when I was a ten-year-old. And one day twenty years on has brought it all back to me. If I were given the chance to be an astronaut knowing all the risks and compromises you have to take, I’d still probably want to do it, it’s a challenge to overcome. And that’s the best bit, it just inspires you to do amazing things. So thank you NASA!

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