BOTCON  AT  DISNEY
(griffin's 2010 BotCon report)


WEDNESDAY TOUR - KENNEDY SPACE CENTRE


WEDNESDAY 23 JUNE

I hopped on the bus and got a seat next to Dispensor...

The bus left the hotel about ten to eight in the morning, and arrived at the NASA just on 9am, which was about what I had guessed from the map below.
The 'A' is where Disney Dolphin hotel is located, while the big grey patch on the right is the NASA base.  The larger island is where the Visitor Centre and current launch bases are located, while the Cape Canaveral (far right bit of land) is where all the old launch bases are located.

At the entrance to the Visitor Complex.

The entrance gates, resembling International Space Stations.

Inside the main courtyard.

.
We were told that we could do anything we wanted, but if we wanted to do the Space tour, we had to be at the departure point by 2pm.
I planned to wander around and catch as many of the scheduled shows, including something in the IMAX theatre.
.
A map of the Visotor Complex.  I went to the Rocket Garden first and went around in a a clockwise direction.

The Rocket Garden, of different types of Rockets used by NASA over the decades.

.
And a massive Saturn Rocket on its side.

.
This was funny.  I first laughed at the over-bearing American Cold-War Propaganda, but then couldn't help but laugh at the spelling mistake in the second line (the word should be 'chosen'). You'd think that a plaque boasting about American Ego, would be spell-checked...

.
One of the Space Capsules that you could hop in to feel how cramped it is for the Astronauts, who spent days and sometimes weeks in them.

.
Inside the Early Space Exploration Exhibit, a captured Soviet satellite...

Nah, just kidding.  I think it was just a replica of their first Soyaz Space station.
.
One of the first US Satellites.

.
Explorer 1 - the early American rocket for satellites.

.
The command Centre for the Mercury Missions.

.
A Mercury Capsule.

.
Gemini Capsule.

.
Model of the Saturn V Rocket, used for the Apollo Missions.

.
Apollo Capsule and Command Module.

.
Scale Models of major American Rockets.

From left - Redstone, Jupiter, Jupiter-C, Juno, Mercury Redstone, Mercury Atlas, Gemini Titan 2, Saturn 1 Block 1, Saturn 1 Block 2, Saturn 1B, Saturn V.
.
The European Ariane Rocket, used for current missions into space.

.
Saturn 1-B Rocket.

.
Back outside in the Rocket Garden, a walkway corridor/gantry to a Capsule, to get a feel of the final few steps that Astronauts take on Earth before lift off.

.
A 3-person Apollo capsule.

.
The view of the Rocket Garden from the other direction.

.
A memorial plaque for the NASA astronauts lost during the Space Program.

.
A sign I saw on one of the perimeter fences... (In my best redneck voice) This here be 'gater country...

They seem more worried about the Gaters than the humans.
.
A training jet.

.
A sign showing the innovations that NASA has developed, that are now implimented in the public domain.

.
A memorial for the lost Astronauts over the years.

.
A replica Shuttle/Orbitor, called Explorer. One of only two that have never reached orbit (Enterprise was the other one).

.
We could walk about inside on two levels.
The upper level, looking into the cargo-hold.

.
Looking in from the lower level.

.
Looking into the living quarters, and the bathroom.

.
Access tunnel between decks.

.
Cockpit.

.
Next to Shuttle Explorer, was a replica of the Rocket Boosters and Main Fuel tank.

.
And a flight simulator for the public.

Similar to theme park rides, you get strapped into one of about 20 seats.  The platform pivots back 90 degrees to launch position, and the big screen in front shows what you would see as an Astronaut in the final minutes of launch in the Shuttle.
Very exciting, as you go through the countdown, and launch.
.
At the giftshop at the exit, I found freeze-dried icecream -  - something I haven't seen since Expo 88. I love that stuff, and bought a couple packs (it's only about the size of half a sandwich, for US$5, so not cheap).
.
This was called the Constellation Sphere. A 9 ton Granite ball, floating on water, that slowly spins and rotates, lubricated by the pressure of the water underneath.

.
One of the science of space travel exhibits, with interactive activities and displays/presentations.

.
At the entrance to the Robot Scouts exhibit (for all the robotic probes and scouts), this full-size Mars Rover was made entirely from Lego.

.
Next to the IMAX theatre - the Hubble Exhibit.  The final years of the Hubble Telescope as it is about to be replaced....

.
...by the new James Webb Space Telescope, slated for 2013.

.
A model showing the sheer size of the Hubble, compared to the Shuttle.

.
A wall-chart with examples of food Astronauts eat in space.

.
And this as well.  I'm not too sure what it is exactly, but from what I can tell, a scale 'model' of the Solar System has been laid out across the US continent, to illustrate the scale of distance between planets. Using the distance between Pluto and the Sun, and naming existing facilities at both north and south of the continent as their place-holders, a Jacob A Larsen was able to label significant scientific institutions on the relavant distances that each of the planets would have in that scale. So, we get four planets located in Florida, while the outer planets are so far apart from each other, we get to see exactly how big the gap is compared to how close we are to the sun.

.
And one of the wall displays that hasn't yet been taken down since this year's US budget scrapped the new Moon Mission for NASA.

.
Probably a good thing, as the description below suggests that NASA only saw it as an American Moonbase project, not a 'united' Earth mission.

.
Woulda been expensive for a lifeless ball of ash... but was the next step for a mission to Mars. No moon mission, no Mars mission either.

.
At midday, I checked out one of the 4 sessions of their Star Trek show at the Space Encounter building.  It was an interactive show, drawing on people from the audience to save the earth from some time-travelling villians, with the help of a time-travelling Vulcan.

After that ended about half an hour later, I wandered off to check out a couple other things and buy some more freeze-dried icecream (just can't get enough of it). With no time left to catch a session at the IMAX theatre, at 1pm I went back to find Simon and a few others waiting out the start of the Space Tour at 2pm. I pulled out the half a dozen toys I brought with me for them to play with, and we headed over to the starting point of the Space tour a bit later.
.
Boarding our 2 buses for the Space tour, we left the Visitor Complex for a 2 and 3/4 hour tour of the facility.
On the map below, we started out east past the NASA headquarters, halfway across the landbridge over the Banana River, back past the HQ, north to the Launch Control Centre, east out to the two current launch pads, back across to the runway, and then the Apollo Centre. Then back to the Visitor Complex.

Now all of that in pictures and details from our host on the bus...
.
In 1958, NASA was created, as a result of the acquisition of German rocket scientists after World War 2.
We were told a bit about NASA and its current/future role with the International Space Station (ISS), now that the Shuttle program is almost over and the US budget hasn't allowed for a replacement program now, or the Return to the Moon project.
There are 2 Shuttle Missions left, to complete the ISS. As such, the recently used Atlantis Shuttle is not expected to ever be used again. Discovery and Endeavour each have 1 launch left in them. They hope for a third launch, but it is unlikely.
.
Looking across to stuctures and launch facilities on the other side of the Banana River (which we didn't cross).

We were also told about how committed NASA are to nature, with their aquatic and nature reserves.  They even boast that they have one of the largest Bald Eagle nesting reserves in the country.
.
The Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Control Centre.

The building is 52 storeys high and is the worlds largest vertical hanger - so big, when closed up the humidity condenses and actually rains inside. It also has the worlds largest painted flag on the side.
Inside, the rockets and Shuttles are assembled on Crawlers, which then slowly drives out to the launchpad taking 8 hours for the 3 mile journey. The Crawler and Shuttle have a combined weight of about 18 million pounds, and take up the width of an 8-lane road (it has its own special built road from the Assembly building to the two Launch pads.
.
The current launch pad in use - LC 39A.

This is the one used by the Shuttles, and will have the last two launches before the program ends. The Shuttles are driven up to the pad fuelled, but empty of their cargo, 30 days before launch, and are then loaded with their cargo on the pad (as opposed to in the Assembly building like normal rockets/satellite launches).
During 1969-72, it was also the launch pad used for the Apollo missions to the moon. Every astronaut that walked on the moon, launched from this pad.
(note the curved fencing - apparently it is only there to keep out the Aligators, not tresspassers)
.
And then there is launch pad LC 39B.  This one was being re-fitted for the new Ares rocket that was meant to replace the Shuttle, but changes in US Budget have meant suspending the re-fit.

.
And looking back at LC 39A (we were at an unmanned camera location for Launches).

.
Dispensor wanted to have a look too...

.
At this spot, there were some info boards on both launch pads.

.
The info is a little out of date on this one, as the new program is now suspended.

Note the Water Towers at each Launch Pad - it's used for sound insulation. The water is forced out at the base of the rocket, to absorb the sound of the launch, which is said to be 2nd only to the noise of an Atomic Weapon (they said a launch could shatter glass up to 17 miles away).
.
Back to the Assembly Building.

.
And next to it are the 'garages' housing the 3 surviving Shuttles/Orbiters.

.
We were taken to the runway next, which is the primary landing spot for the Orbiter. It is the longest runway in the world, at 3 miles long.  If an Orbiter can't land there for some reason, it lands at a backup site and then ferried back by 747, at a cost of US$1.8million. And they have two 747s specially built for the Shuttles.
While we were there, the runway was being used for Nascar speed testing.
.
According to our host, the favourite food of NASA astronauts is M&Ms - but they have the 'M' left off, in case it is seen as endorsing the product. (not sure why, since they 'endorse' various electronics brands, like IBM).
.
The bus then dropped us off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, which features/commemorates the moon missions (not just the landings).
This was the program that started out in the early 60s with the pledge to have man on the moon by the end of the decade, to 1972, with the last man to walk on the moon.

There were 15 Saturn rockets built - 12 were launched, leaving 3 unused. One of which is housed in this Apollo Center.
We were given a short presentation on the history of the Apollo project, and led into a replica (or preserved) command centre used for the launches (I say replica, because it looks different to the one on the screens that showed the progress of the launch).

We were given a 10 minute demonstration of the pre-flight checks and final countdown to launch, with footage on the screens and consoles lighting up.

After that, we were led out to the main housing facility, with one of the 3 unused Saturn V rockets (split up into its stages/components).

Stage 1 of the Rocket.

A size-chart.

This one showed the stages for assembling a Saturn V rocket.

Stage 2 of the Rocket.

And Stage 3 of the Rocket, plus the Service Module and Command Module in the background, and Lunar Module in the foreground.

A map showing where the 6 moon missions landed (I didn't realise they were so spread out).

.

.
Lunar rover.

.
One of the samples of moon rock on display.  This one you couldn't touch, but they had a piece out for the public to touch (to say that you'd actually touched the moon, or at least, part of it).

An actual returned capsule.

.
Dispensor playing out a scene from the movie Dr Strangelove.

.
At that gift shop I bought some more freeze-dried icecream (did I say how much I love the stuff?). And at about 4.20, I (and just about every other BotCon-ner) queued up for the bus back to the Visitor Complex.
Back there about 10-15 minutes later, we were all back on our charter buses, departing at 4.45pm.  We arrived at the hotel just on 6.30pm, with 90 minutes before the early-bird package pickup began.

Empty packaging to the freeze-dried icecream and Space food sticks (were like nougat) that I bought at the NASA complex. (the M&Ms pack was from the airport)

 

Return to Wednesday-to-Monday page

Or - Return to main index page



griffin @ otca.com.au

Ozformers News and Interaction Boards
Ozformers Website and Resource Guide
BotCon website