Thursday, April 17
Doubletree Castle Hotel, Orlando
Today began early with a 6AM wakeup call. I went upstairs with willowisp for 7AM breakfast, then back to the room to pack up the very last of our things. There wasn't much that needed doing. She has been the Luggage Queen this trip and had all but the very last bits packed already.
We got off the ship and cleared customs in practically no time at all. It took only slightly longer to retrieve our rental car. Then we were off to Kennedy Space Center where we spent the day.
That place is fantastic for nerds. Yes, the KSC visitor center is designed more like a theme park than a working facility (since that's what it is), but there's cool technical stuff there if you look a bit. For example, there's the Rocket Garden, where they've got full-size models of a bunch of different vehicles from a Mercury Redstone up to a Saturn 1B. Then there's the aeronautical engineering gallery when you get out of the IMAX movies -- there are drawings and wind-tunnel models and miscellanea from designs for very fast aircraft from the Blackbird onward. Then there's the bus tour. First it takes you to the observation tower for Launch Complex 39. From there you can see Pads A and B -- that's where the shuttle goes up. Then it takes you to the Saturn V gallery. There's a short film about launching one of the Apollo missions, then you get to go into this exhibit hall wherein hangs a full-size model of -- naturally -- a Saturn V. That thing is immense. When you stand by the bell of one of the F-1 engines it becomes a lot easier to believe that these things could take three men and some hardware to the moon and back. Last, and perhaps best, was the International Space Station exhibit hall. We got to walk through full-size mock-ups of several of the ISS modules. That was neat, but the real treat was a skybridge behind an unobtrusive door labeled "ISS Processing Facility" that led to an observation gallery over the cleanroom where they put together the ISS components and payloads before they're loaded onto the shuttle. I couldn't use my flash in the gallery so the pictures I took are going to be pretty murky but I'll see what I can do with Aperture.
Visiting KSC was something of a pilgrimage for me. I've always been fascinated by the space program. I don't have it in me to be an astronaut except in my wildest dreams but there are other ways I can contribute. At work, for example, a few of my colleagues wrote a piece of software that's used every time the Shuttle goes up. I'll supply details another time. The bottom line is that one of my semi-teammates goes to Houston every time there's a flight and I'm damn proud of this. It's like this: while there are a few hundred people who have flown missions in space, there are a couple million who all worked together to get them there and to get them home safe again. If I can be one of those, however briefly, however peripherally, then I've accomplished something I'm proud of.
Now we're back in Orlando. We have dinner reservations at Ruth's Chris this evening and then a 9:40 flight home tomorrow. I miss my friends, my cats and my house.
I'm going to try to sort and upload all of my pictures this weekend. There ought to be a few decent ones in there.
Off to dinner!
PS: attention pocketnaomi, tonight's dinner is advance payment to willowisp for our outing in June. There is no need to be jealous. Well, not much.
Oh, hell. Yes. You are welcome to be jealous. I would be.