The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

NASA MSL Tweetup: Day 3

Okay, now I am up to Friday, November 25th, the day before the launch of Curiosity. Even though this is my third blog entry, it is the first day of the official tweetup. I picked up my badge on Wednesday morning, so I could drive straight to the media center. You kind of feel special driving up to the gate at KSC and flashing your badge and them letting you drive right on site.

Even before I went to the twent (tweetup tent) I had to stop and get a picture by the famous countdown clock. The clock wasn’t on yet…would take another pic the next day when the clock was actively counting down. Our twent was just across the field from the clock.

The first activity was introductions. I was really looking forward to meeting the rapper funky49.  Funky49 did the Fermilab rap video I blogged about a while ago and incorporates lots of science into his music. Even if you are not a rap fan, check it out if you are a science fan. I was also thrilled to meet Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World fame. Glad to say I got to chat with both.

After introductions, there was a break to enjoy and get ready for the main tweetup event at 11am. This part was televised and featured lots of speakers from NASA and JPL who worked on Curiosity. They talked about the science they hoped to accomplish, rover design and the launch vehicle. This part was televised and you can watch it online. At a tweetup it is not considered rude to be on your laptop/cell phone/iPad as long as you are tweeting about the speaker!

One of the really cool things during this section was a rover comparison. They brought out three wheels: one from the Sojourner Rover (1997), one from the current rovers (2003) and the third one from Curiosity (2011) to illustrate how much bigger this rover is than the previous generations.

After the formal program, we had a quick lunch and then it was off to our tours of the Cape. The first stop was the Saturn V center (different buses hit the stops in different orders..there were four buses taking us on tours). I saw it on Thursday, but it is always worth a second stop.

The one I was really looking forward to was the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The VAB is where they stacked the Saturn V and Shuttles. It’s one of the largest buildings in the world (in terms of volume) and over 500 feet tall. Fortunately, I have a very wide angle fisheye lens for my camera, but it still cannot do the building justice!

But that’s not all…there was a real treat waiting around the corner!

That’s not a model! That is the real, flown in space, Shuttle Endeavor.  It is currently being readied to be transported to the California Science Center where it will be displayed.

Next stop was Launch Complex 41 where the Atlas V stood read with Curiosity waiting for the Saturday launch.

This particular Atlas V has four strap on boosters and a five meter faring at the top enclosing curiosity. We couldn’t go past the gate, but still got a great view of the rocket!

The last stop on the tour was a little more somber: Launch Complex 34. Complex 34 is the site of the Apollo I fire that claimed the lives of astronauts Grissom, Chaffee, and White. I found the understated plaque commemorating the fire especially moving.

After the tour, it was off to dinner in Cocoa Beach. Coming back from Cocoa Beach, I stopped on the side of 528 because the pad was nicely lit up. I had to take a couple of picks at different zooms. I had no tripod, so I had to settle for steadying my camera on the hood of my car.

Yep, another full day. Had to be at the Cape by 6:45am for the launch and I was having trouble getting to sleep!


December 1, 2011 - Posted by | Atlas V, Launch, Mars, NASA, Solar System

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