NASA MSL Tweetup: Day 2
On to day 2: Thanksgiving. I have run a Thanksgiving Day race every year since 1993 and wasn’t about to let a little thing like traveling break that streak. Fortunately, the Cocoa Beach 5k Turkey Trot (complete with live Turkey) fit the bill.
After a quick shower and breakfast, off to use my complimentary pass to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. Many of the tweeps did the lunch with an astronaut. I choose to pass on that (I have had lunch, dinner and drinks with enough astronauts I decided to spend my time exploring more). I hadn’t been there since 2003 so a lot had changed.
The Space Explorers hall had a nice display of all the Mars rovers. You can see full size models of the Sojourner rover (1997), the Mars Exploration Rovers (2003) and Curiosity (2011).
The big new thing is the Shuttle Launch Experience which simulates a shuttle launch. Amazingly, there was no line for it. Thanksgiving Day wasn’t very busy there. You get a couple of video briefings about what happens during a shuttle launch before the ride. They tilt you so you are laying on your back just like the astronauts at liftoff. It shakes pretty good for the first couple of minutes until the solid rockets drop off. Then it gets a lot smoother (which matches what I have heard about flying the shuttle). It’s a pretty good experience. It’s not a centrifuge so you don’t truly get the full g-force, however (unlike Mission Space at Epcot where you get quite a bit of g-force!)
Quick lunch then on to the bus tour. First stop, launch pad 39 viewing area. A nice tower gives you great view of pad 39A and 39B and panoramic views of the entire complex.
Next to the Saturn V Center (I was here in 2010 for STS 132, the launch of Atlantis. I was in the VIP seats outside the Saturn V Center and went in so I have been here more recently than the rest of the center). They have all the consoles from the Apollo days set up and show you what happens in the three minutes prior to launch. Specifically, they simulate the Apollo VIII launch, the one that circled the Moon in December 1968. While the audio is playing, they light up the seat of person speaking so you know where they were sitting. After the simulated launch, onto the big Saturn V.
The sheer scale of a Saturn V is really not possible to capture in a pic. You just have to see that for yourself!
Finally headed back to the main visitor’s center. Just in time to catch the afternoon talk by an astronaut (the same one that did lunch with an astronaut and people said he told the same stories and jokes). They also had a silly show based on Star Trek which involved some Romulan time travel and a Vulcan showing up to save the day. They incorporated some science demos and NASA references of course.
I really wanted to get pics of the rocket garden at night, but they didn’t turn on all the lights, only lit up the Saturn 1b! Oh, well. Here is what I got.
And they decorate for the holidays.
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