Saturday, July 3, 2010

Kennedy Space Center, Part 3

From the Apollo/Saturn V Center, we took another bus to the International Space Station building. My brother and I avoided the “space program propaganda film” by entering through a side door. The International Space Station exhibit consists of walk-through mockups of the modules that make up the space station. Each module is about the size of a cargo container, but cylindrical. There’s a central corridor, flanked on either side by standard-sized equipment bays. Everything on the space station must fit into one of these bays, including the bathroom.


I was amused by this bay, which contained only a window, prominently labeled.


Other bays contained computer equipment, science experiments and life support gear.



In one module, there was a refrigerator, a freezer and a galley, each fitted into the equipment bays. The space station modules all had a dreadful gray sameness about them that I found depressing.

After leaving the International Space Station exhibit, we caught the bus back to the visitor’s complex, and we walked over to what they call the “rocket garden.” This exhibit consists of numerous launch vehicles from the early days of the space program.


After visiting the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the collection of Mercury and Gemini-era rockets seemed ridiculously dinky and unimpressive. They looked like projects constructed by a few hobbyists in someone's back yard, which they planned to shoot off at Burning Man. It was difficult to imagine what technical achievements they represented, the army of scientists that produced them, and the massive audience that watched every launch.



I couldn’t help but notice the corrosion on one of the rockets.


Nearby was a Saturn 1B, the smaller cousin of the massive Saturn V.


For my brother, the big moment came when we stumbled upon this F-1 engine from the Saturn V. He stood, mesmerized by its size and complex system of pipes and conduits, wishing he could take it home, mount it in a big aluminum tube and shoot it off at Burning Man.


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