Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kennedy Space Center, Part 2

After viewing the launch complex, we boarded the bus again. This time, the bus took us to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, which is a long building about 4 stories tall. The bus dropped us in front of a pair of double doors, where we waited in the heat. Eventually, the doors opened, and everyone shuffled into a room with no seats, and we were forced to stand and endure what I can only call a “space program propaganda film.”

Once the film ended, we were herded through another set of doors into another room with no seats. In this room, there was a display of sixties-era control consoles from Apollo Mission Control, all of which were off – a mausoleum full of long-dead electronics.


Then, another space program propaganda film started. To my amazement, someone had wired up all of those consoles, which came to life with blinking lights and tiny black-and-white monitors.


However, once that film ended, I vowed not to stand through another one. Sure enough, if you look around before going in to an exhibit, you’ll find an entrance that bypasses the movie.

The doors finally opened, and we were admitted to the most awe-inspiring exhibit I have ever seen. Suspended horizontally above our heads was a gigantic Saturn V rocket. It’s as tall as a 36-story building. Each of these main engines is over 12 feet across.


My brother broke into a huge smile, thrilled and delighted.


We walked, gaping in wonder, down the length of the enormous machine. It was broken into stages, so that you could see each component of the launch vehicle in its entirety.




NASA clearly had some help with this exhibit, which was world-class. The presentation of the Saturn V was perfect, and the primary display was surrounded by side exhibits that would appeal to all kinds of audiences. I was intrigued by the display of things designed in the early stages of the space program, such as this helmet with multiple visors, and a spacesuit made like a suit of armor.



Compare that suit with this more contemporary Apollo mission spacesuit.


And there was this display of plaster casts of the hands of three Apollo astronauts, used to make custom-fitted gloves.


Nearby was the Apollo 14 command module, still scorched by re-entry 39 years ago.


And the inside of a Lunar Excursion Module.


The big exhibit for me was an actual sliver of moon rock that you could touch.


If you go to Kennedy Space Center, I recommend saving the Apollo/Saturn V Center for last. Once you’ve seen it, everything else seems lame by comparison, as you’ll learn in my next post.

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