Lake City 20230120
This is just an overnight stop on our way to the Kennedy Space Center. We drove to Lake City and found the campground, but there was no one on duty. We had a reservation, so we pulled into the only empty spot and set up. There was no one answering the phone, and the voice mail box was full and not accepting any more messages. The next morning nothing had changed, so I went into RV Trip Wizard and found that the three previous people who left reviews had all been charged $20, so I wrote a check for that amount before we left.
After leaving Lake City in the morning, we drove to Mims, just a few miles from the Kennedy Space Center, to stay at the Titusville/Kennedy KOA RV Camp. We were welcomed by nice friendly people, which I expected since this is a KOA campground. By just after 2 we were in our space and set up. I checked the Kennedy Space Center site, and there are tons of things to do there. I think we could spend 4 days there easily. And looking at the admission charges, it makes senser for us to purchase annual passes if we do that. I’m getting excited about this stop!
After breakfast we headed to the Kennedy Space Center. They offer 1-day and 2-day passes, but after checking out the prices, it made sense to purchase annual passes. We’ll use them enough, plus we get free parking and discounts on merchandise. We bought our passes, and decided to start with the Bus tour. This is an included tour with our passes (they have a couple of ones that cost extra), and after viewing some of the structures, like the Vehicle Assembly Building and the crawler that takes the rockets to the launch pad, we were dropped at the Apollo/Saturn V building. We started with a movie, and saw the Launch Control Center used for the Apollo VIII launch. Then we got to see a Saturn V rocket. Of course, we also saw one in Huntsville, and purely for the Saturn V experience I think Huntsville did a better job. But we got to see a movie about the Apollo XI moon landing, and exhibits about the moon buggy, and the actual capsule from Apollo XIV. And we stepped outside where there were spectator bleachers looking at one of the launch sites across the water. They try to keep these back about 3 miles for safety. A fully loaded Saturn V rocket has the explosive power of a nuclear bomb if it blows up, and even good launches are things you don’t want to be too near to. When we finished, the bus took us back to the Visitor Complex and dropped us in front of the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit.
They had the actual shuttle on display here, and as before we started with a movie about the development of the shuttle before walking around the shuttle. They removed the bay doors, and had a mockup of the flight deck you could walk through. There was also a display of a full-size mockup of the Hubble Space Telescope, which of course was delivered to orbit, and then serviced multiple times by Shuttle missions. Then we had one the best things of the day, a simulation of a Shuttle takeoff. They couldn’t replicate the G-forces, of course, but otherwise it was very realistic and a great experience. After that, we walked through a few displays, but we were getting tired and needed to do some grocery shopping on the way back. So we ended day one of our Kennedy experience and left the Space Center.
Our second day at Kennedy Space Center. With our annual passes we got free parking, which helps. We first inquired about the other bus trip that is not part of the pass., and it looked good so we bought tickets. Then we went to the Rocket Garden, which has examples of rockets from the Redstone that took Alan Shephard up to the Saturn 1B. So we got a good look at all of the early rockets, but also a ULA rocket. The tour was guided with a narrator explaining everything you would see.
Then we went into Gateway, which appeared to be primarily a showcase for the outside companies that NASA is now purchasing from, like SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, and so on. There looked to be some rides in there, but we didn’t have time, so we may go back later and check them out. From there we went to the IMAX theater to see Journey to Space 3-D, which was also a lot of fun.
Finally we went on the second bus tour. This one had a guide the whole way, and we got to see some of the facilities at Kennedy. We visited an observation tower that was near Launch Pads 39A and 39B, but it was too close to be used for launches there. If a rocket were to blow up, the resulting fireball would extend to about 3 miles, so NASA has a rule that no one can get any closer than 3.5 miles to observe a launch. So this tower was used for farther away launches. Then we went to a camera platform where NASA stations cameras to observe launches. These are very high quality cameras, and our guide said that from a mile away they could read the name badge on his shirt. We went by Launch Pads 39A and 39B, and he noted the water towers on each pad. This is actually a noise reduction measure. The rockets can produce so much noise that they would shake the rockets to pieces, so the water is dumped there at lunch time for noise abatement. When you think you are seeing white smoke at a launch, you are actually seeing a lot of steam.
Then we went to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), which is the largest one-story building in the world. The different stages of the rocket are stacked together here. Then the crawler goes and picks up the Mobile Launch Tower, and takes it to the VAB, and the Rocket is added by some very heavy-duty cranes. Then the whole shebang goes to the launch pad, at an avarage speed of about .5 miles per hour, where the rocket and Mobile Launch Tower are dropped off. The Crawler goes to a holding area a little distance away, and after the launch goes back to get the Mobile Launch Tower and take it back the VAB area. We got to see a lot of the NASA operations on this bus tour, so I’m glad we did it. They dropped us back at the Saturn V building, but since we did that yesterday we just caught the next bus back to the Visitor Complex and went home.
Day Three at Kennedy Space Center started out with a return to the Gateway building where we took a couple of rides. One went to a different solar system, where the planets were investigated, and the second took us to Mars. Both were fantastic, albeit brief at around 5 minutes each, but with lining up and getting belted in it took longer. Then we went to the IMAX theater to see a movie about Gene Cernan and the last Apollo mission, #17. It was called The Last Man On The Moon, and now we have seen two of the IMAX movies available.
Following the movie we went back to the Shuttle Atlantis building for the guided Atlantis walk. And it turned out our guide was the same fellow we had yesterday on the guided bus tour. We enjoyed him then, and again today. He gave us a lot more information about the Shuttle and its components, particularly the heat tiles. After that we went downstairs and watched videos of many of the people who worked on the Shuttle program, each telling about their own experiences. We loved it. We finished off by taking in the presentation in the Journey to Mars building. NASA is planning to send the first crewed mission to Mars by the end of the 2030s, if I followed it correctly. And then it was time to go back to the RV.
Day Four at Kennedy. We arrived a bit earlier today so that we could be sure to catch the 3-D IMAX movie Asteroid Hunters, which was all about scientists working in the Earth Protection field to protect us from killer asteroids. And then in the downstairs we found a LEGO exhibit, which was really for the kids but fun anyway. Then we went to the Universe Theater for a presentation called It’s A Matter of Fact. This was also a kids demonstration, but we had fun with it. Then, after lunch, we went back to the Gateway building to do the remaining two rides. One was about different stars, and the other about Jupitar and Saturn. They were just as much fun as the two we did previously. We noticed that the Shuttle Atlantis building had something called the Hubble Theater, which we had not seen, so we went back there. When we got to the thesater area we found one of the guides relaxing while waiting to do the Guided Shuttle Atlantis tour, which we had done yesterday. But we had a great time chateting with him before watching the movie. then we went downstairs to try our hands at the simulators, but I found it frustrating. There is a reason I don’t play those kinds of computer games, I’m no good at them. Then to cap off the trip we did a repeat of the Shuttle Launch Simulator, and it was just as much fun as before. At that point we left, did a little shopping, and went back to the RV.