NASA: Apollo Saturn V

After writing about the future of NASA, it’s time to visit the Apollo Saturn V building, located at the Kennedy Space Center.  When President John F. Kennedy stated on May 25, 1961, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth” NASA was faced with the task of developing a rocket that could achieve this mission.  The Saturn V rocket was developed and used successfully from 1968 to 1972.  The only way to see this rocket, is to take the complimentary bus tour to the building where an original, unused rocket is on display.   It is an impressive sight, and the building has been remodeled with some new displays.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the tragic accident to Apollo 1, and they have added a nice memorial to the three astronauts that lost their lives in the fire.

DSC04205 (1)

After watching a brief video, and then a simulated countdown of an Apollo launch, with all the original launch command room equipment, you walk right smack into the five F-1 engines located on the first stage of the rocket.  Using a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel, it could reach a speed of 6,000 miles per hour in three minutes.

 

DSC04175 (1)

A side view of stage one.

DSC04179 (1)

DSC04183 (1)

They have a small-scale model of the entire rocket, and spacecraft.  At 363 feet, it is difficult to photograph the original!

DSC04188 (1)

The second stage of the rocket on display.

DSC04184 (1)

DSC04194 (1)

The third stage will take the spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit.

DSC04199 (1)

The Apollo spacecraft on top of the rocket consists of three components:  the Lunar Module, Service Module and Command Module.  The Launch Escape System (below right)  is attached to the command module.   The photograph below displays an unused command module (with heat-reflective silver coating)  attached to a service module below the rocket.

DSC04204 (1)

The building contains the command module from Apollo 14, which shows how scarred the spacecraft gets from re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

DSC04209

Apollo 14 command module

 

Apollo 15 was set to carry this Lunar Module to the Moon.  However, NASA decided to also send up a Lunar Rover, so the module was redesigned, and this one was never flown in space.  It is a crazy looking thing, that seems to be wrapped in gold-colored aluminum foil.  The bottom half (with the “foil”) remains on the surface of the moon, and the astronauts return to the command module in the top half.

DSC04200 (1)

A Lunar Rover, built from spare parts, is on display in the building.

DSC04207 (1)

Along with a spacesuit from Gene Cernan.

 

DSC04208 (1)

There are many additional displays and a few movies to view in the Apollo Saturn V Building.  With the bus tour, and stop at the building, you can easily spend 2 – 3 hours viewing the exhibits.  It is definitely a “must see” on your visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex.  Next up: the Space Shuttle.

Quote for the day:  “We hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program.” – Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Commander Apollo One.

 

 

 

NASA: To Mars and Beyond

We have made several visits to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Merritt Island, just south of Titusville, Florida.  There are plenty of things to see and do, and a few exhibits are under construction, so we will have more to explore next year when we return to Florida.  The visitors complex is separate from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).   The visitors center is operated by an outside firm, and does not receive any government funding.  I will break up my blog into several posts, starting with the future of space exploration.

NASA continues to operate at the space center.  Some people are surprised by this, and think the space program was cancelled due to budget cuts from Congress several years ago.  They are no longer flying the Space Shuttle, as it had completed its two main missions:  build the International Space Station, and launch and repair the Hubble Telescope.  NASA has partnered with private companies such as SpaceX and Boeing to continue servicing the Space Station and sending satellites into orbit.  Both of the private companies are planning on sending manned trips to the Space Station.  Currently the United States has to pay Russia to send our astronauts up there.

NASA is focused on the next generation of space travel and exploration.  They are working on the most powerful rocket ever built, Space Launch System (SLS) and a new space craft, Orion, which will go to Mars.  The first launch, called Exploration Mission – 1, is tentatively scheduled for 2018.

There is a bus trip that takes you around KSC, as part of the admission to the Visitors Center.  The most famous building, visible for miles, is the 526 feet tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).  This building was constructed in the 1960s and was used for both the Apollo and Shuttle programs. It is now being modified for use to assemble Orion and SLS.

DSC04162 (1)

Vehicle Assembly Building front view

This view below shows the side where the rocket exits the building and moves down the gravel road to the launch pad.  The building on the left is the launch control center.  Once the space craft and rocket booster has been assembled in the VAB, it will be moved down to the launch pad on a giant mover vehicle.

DSC04132 (1)

DSC04157 (1)

vehicle mover

Construction is underway on the launch tower for the SLS.  This tower will eventually be moved to the launch pad.

DSC04128 (1)

NASA will be using launch pad 39B, which was used for both the Apollo and Shuttle programs.  They are currently demolishing the old launch facility, and building a new tower to be placed on the launch pad.  This is the current view of pad 39B.  The towers that you see are lightning rods.

DSC04145 (1)

SpaceX has obtained a 20 year lease to use launch pad 39A.  They recently launched Dragon-9 which carried supplies on a trip to the Space Station.  It was the first time this pad has been used in years. The white tower on the right in the picture below is what they use for their rocket launch pad.  The tower on the left is what remains from the shuttle program.

DSC04135 (1)

The bus tour is very informative, both for the history and the future of the space program.  For an additional charge, there are several more in-depth tours that you can take.  We plan on doing this next year when we return, to see what has developed with Orion.  NASA has a model of the 364 feet spacecraft and rocket on the tower.  The spacecraft would be at the top of the model, just above the NASA logo.

DSC04277 (1)

Below is what the Orion spacecraft will look like.  The base is 16 feet in diameter.  It can carry 4 – 6 astronauts.

DSC04282 (1)

Orion model

NASA currently has 3 rovers on Mars.  They have models of all three on display in their newest exhibit, Journey to Mars. The smallest, Sojourner, landed in July of 1997, and broadcast images until September 1997.

DSC04286 (1)

Sojourner Rover

In January of 2004, two rovers landed on opposite sides of Mars.  The Spirit mission ended March 2010, but Opportunity continues to roam around.

DSC04283 (1)

Spirit/Opportunity Rovers

The larger Curiosity Rover is about the size of an ATV, and it landed in August of 2012.  It will break down and “digest” rock samples and send back data on what it “ate”.

DSC04290 (1)

Curiosity Rover

It will be exciting to follow along on NASA’s progress in the Journey to Mars.  Right now they estimate sending humans to Mars in the 2030’s.  Stay tuned for additional posts on the center.

Quote of the Day:  “Mars has been flown by, orbited, smacked into, radar examined, and rocketed onto, as well as bounced upon, rolled over, shoveled, drilled into, baked and even blasted.  Still to come:  Mars being stepped on.” – Buzz Aldrin, from his 2013 book, Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration.

Just chillin’ in the Sunshine State

Obviously I did not make a New Years Resolution to blog more frequently, since this is only my second post this year!  We really have not done too much here in Florida.  Dan drove his parents down from Wisconsin at the end of January.   They are renting a condo, in New Smyrna Beach, about 20 miles from us.  There is a dog-friendly beach in the area, and we made the mistake of going there on the first warm Sunday.  Parking is limited, so you have to wait until a spot opens up.  So we sat in line for almost one hour, but it was worth it, as Makena had a great time running around on the beach with her grandparents!

img_1934

Beach time!

This year we decided to purchase an annual pass to the Kennedy Space Center, and met up with our friends Karen and Al.  There is so much to see and do at the Center, that we plan on going several times this year, and again next January when we return to Florida before our pass expires.  I will have several blog posts on KSC (and promise it won’t take a month to post them!)

img_0705-1

Karen, Dan and I decided to check out one of the space capsules they had on display.  It was pretty cozy inside!

img_0709-1

We managed to get in one round of golf at The Great Outdoors RV resort, with Ken and Martha, who do an excellent monthly podcast called RV Navigators.  It is free on I-Tunes, and very fun and informative to listen to.  Dan noticed an alligator peeking out of the water when I was hitting the ball. He made me move my ball a few feet because he thought I was to close to Mr. Gator. Of course there is no penalty stroke from moving your ball when it is a few feet away from a gator.

img_0733-1

At the end of the month, we had our “Disney fix” for the year when we headed to Disney Springs which is a shopping and dining area on the Disney complex.  It is one of the free areas to attend.  We met up with Karen and Al, and Tom and Ellen for a nice lunch.  It was great catching up with everyone.

dsc04218-1Hello Mr. Potato Head!

img_2037-1Howdee Buzz Light Year!

fullsizerender-1

Dan’s brother and sister-in-law will be arriving tomorrow for 2 weeks.  They will be staying in New Smyrna Beach by Dan’s parents, so we will be busy with them.  After that, we may be heading back to Wisconsin.   Our friend Mike, who is remodeling an old building for a new tavern and eatery, separated his shoulder.  So he asked if we could come back to Wisconsin to help him finish the remodeling work we started with him a few months ago.  We are still working out the details, but it looks like we will cut our Florida time short this year to help out again.  In May, we need to head to Wyoming for our summer job, back at Luton’s Teton Cabins.

Quote for the Day:  “It is nice finding that place where you can just go and relax.” – Moises Arias

 

A full social calendar

We have settled in for 2 months at Crystal Lake RV park in Mims, Florida, where we stayed last year.  It is a small, no frills park right off of I-95, conveniently located south of New Smyrna Beach (where Dan’s parents rent a condo for a few months), North of Cocoa Beach, and about 70 miles East of Orlando.  The best part is the price, $400/month plus electric.  And many of the folks from last year have returned, so we have been busy with activities.

The RV lifestyle can be as social as you want it to be.  In talking with people who are not full-time RV’ers, many cite the fear they would miss their family and friends too much, or the fellowship they have at their church.  For us, we are more active now, than when we had a regular sticks and bricks house.  But we also make it a point to swing “back home” to Wisconsin in between our workcamping jobs to visit family and friends.

When we were listening to the February podcast from the RV Navigators (free on ITunes), we discovered they were ‘parked at a campground nearby’, so we sent Ken and Martha an e-mail to see if we could meet up with them, and they were happy to do so.  They have an excellent monthly podcast about the RV lifestyle which we have listened to for several years, and we were excited to finally meet up with them.  We had an excellent lunch, and then made plans to golf nine holes, at the RV resort they were staying at.  Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera, and left the phones in the truck while we were golfing.  On the first hole, we encountered a large bird, a large turtle and a small alligator, all sitting together by the cart path.  You will just have to take my word for it!  They were very interested in hearing about our workcamping jobs, and how we are making a living doing this.  We agreed to do a short interview, which will be broadcast on a future episode of their show.  We look forward to meeting up with them again.

There is an excellent farmers/flea market in Deland on Wednesdays, and we picked up Dan’s mom and headed over for a few hours a couple of weeks ago.  While we were there, we heard a woman’s voice yell “Wisconsin”.  We turned around and I yelled “Seattle” back!  It was Marilyn and David, whom we worked with at Amazon in 2013 in Kentucky.  Marilyn was a “stower” at Amazon, so we saw her on a regular basis.  She would always great us with “Hello Wisconsin”, and we would always say “Goodnight Seattle” when she left for the day.  Depending on your age, you may or may not get those two television references!  As it turns out, they have a house in Titusville, about 12 miles south of our campground, and they invited us over for a wonderful shrimp pasta dinner.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I like to emphasize the “family” atmosphere of the workcampers.  Thanks again “Seattle” for your hospitality!

beautiful table setting

beautiful table setting

David, Dan, Marilyn

David, Dan, Marilyn

We also got together with Dick and Cheryl, whom we worked with at Crazy Horse Memorial this past summer.  They have a home in Cocoa Beach.  Cheryl had been having some problems with her back, and went in for surgery last fall when they arrived back in Florida for the winter.  After surgery, Cheryl had no feeling her extremities.  It was a very life changing experience for her and Dick.  After very intense physical therapy, she is slowing gaining movement, but still faces a long road ahead.  When we first met up for lunch, she was able to walk without her walker, but needed some assistance.  A few weeks later, when we met up to golf with Dick (Cheryl road along in the cart), she was able to walk gingerly, without assistance, for short distances.  She continues physical therapy, and is just taking one day at a time.  You just never know what life will bring you, so be grateful for every day you have!

Dick, Cheryl & I

Dick, Cheryl & I

This time I remembered to bring my camera while golfing.  We did not see any alligators, but did see this unique soft shell turtle, with sort of a pig stout for a nose.

Soft shell turtle

Soft shell turtle

unique nose

unique nose

This week we made another trip back to Epcot, to visit with a former co-worker of mine, who was escaping the cold of Wisconsin!  It was also the start of the annual Epcot International Flower and Garden, which is held every spring.  We were amazed at how “alive” the park seemed to be, since our last visit, with all the beautiful flowers and topiaries.  It was a perfect day, and we had a lot of fun with Katie and her husband Sam.  Thanks for letting us crash a day of your vacation!

Katie, Sam and I

Katie, Sam and I

Katie is an avid pin collector (I need to hook her up with Karen!), and I have learned that the Disney Cast Members are required to trade pins when anyone asks.  Katie scored a nice Buzz Lightyear pin from one of the employees.

I'll take that one!

I’ll take that one!

And here are just a few of the topiaries located throughout Epcot.

Flower Festival

Flower Festival

Butterflies

Butterflies

Monsters Inc

Monsters Inc

Woody

Woody

Captain Jack

Captain Jack

colorful animals

colorful animals

Lion King

Lion King

Quote for the day:  “A friend is like a good bra….hard to find…supportive…comfortable…always lifts you up…makes you look better…and always close to your heart.” – Maxine

 

Final Day – Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

Our short vacation at Disneyworld was coming to an end, and we spent our last day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It is one of the largest animal theme parks in the world, home to 1700 animals and 250 different species.  We were very impressed by this park, opened since 1998, as it really focuses on conservation and education.  It had less of that traditional “amusement park” feel to it.

The iconic symbol of this park is the Tree of Life, which is a sculpture 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide.  It has 325 animals carved into the tree.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Can you spot the animals is this photo?  You may need to double click on the photo to blow it up, but there are dozens of animals in just this section alone.  You can spend a lot of time walking around the base, and seeing something different each time you look.

animal carvings

animal carvings

Our group started out the day with the excellent 30 minute Broadway style show, Festival of the Lion King.  The music, performers and costumes were fabulous.  Part of the “homework” that Karen and Al made us do was watch the Lion King movie before we went, so we would have a better understanding of the show.  We would recommend using one of your three allotted FastPass selections for this show.

the gang

the gang

DSC_0536 (1) DSC_0540 (1) DSC_0551 (1)

There are many animal exhibits scattered throughout the park, and we stopped to view of few of the many species of ducks on display, such as these Indian Spot-Billed Ducks

DSC_0478 (1)Followed by the Black-Necked SwanDSC_0501 (1)

And this very popular “duck”, which had a long line of people waiting to see her!

Daisy Duck

Daisy Duck

We headed over to the Tree of Life to see the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” 3-D film, which is in a studio underneath the tree.  The interactive movie was a lot of fun, even if you find bugs to be a little creepy.

There are many other outdoor exhibits featuring many species of birds from around the world.  This Victoria Crowned Pigeon was a favorite of mine.  I love the big “crown” of hair.

DSC_0634 (1)

DSC_0636 (1)The area also contained a popular exhibit on bats.  We saw two species on display, the Giant Flying Fox, which is one of the largest bats in existence. They can have a wingspan over 5 feet.  This guy was a bit of an exhibitionist!

covering the "privates"

covering the “privates”

DSC_0612 (1)

To get an idea of the size of this bat, they had a common fruit bat in the same exhibit.

fruit bat on right

fruit bat on right

After lunch, and with a great deal of hesitation on my part, I did agree to go on Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.  The ride goes straight up into a mountain, and then you go around inside the dark, and backwards, before coming out and dropping down the mountain.  You are supposed to see the Yeti monster, but I had my eyes closed most of the ride, so I just have to take everyone’s word about the monster!  Many of the reviews of this ride describe it as the best roller coaster in Disney.  I just know there was a lot of screaming going on this ride, and it wasn’t all by me!

Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest

The highlight of the day was going on the Kilimanjaro Safari.  You board an open top vehicle to explore African animals in a natural setting on 110 acres.  The narrated ride is very bumpy, to simulate the roads that you would travel on a real safari trek.  There is no guarantee of what animals that you will see, as they may or not be active during your trip.  These are just a few photos of the animals that we saw.

Safari vehicle

Safari vehicle

African Elephant

African Elephant

Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus

Giraffe

Giraffe

African scenery

African scenery

Mandrill

Mandrill

Greater Flamingo

Greater Flamingo

African Lions

African Lions

Zebra's

Zebra’s

??

Addax

And unlike the other parks where you can stand in long lines to meet the characters, the animals “go wild” in this park, with an afternoon dance party with the characters.  I think the ‘moms’ had the most fun during this impromptu dance session by the characters.

line dancing

line dancing, to the left, to the left…

animals gone wild

animals gone wild

 

Because of the animals, this park has the shortest operating hours, so we still had a few attractions that we did not have time for.  We headed back to the campground to feed the dog and get ready for our morning departure.  We did make it over to one of the hotels for a quick meal, followed by this excellent Mickey cupcake.

yummy!

yummy!

It was a great way to end the short but busy week at Disneyland.  We can’t thank Karen and Al enough for being our tour guides, and to their friends and family for letting us be a part of their week.

Thanks for putting up with a few too many Disney photos!

Quote for the Day: “Animals don’t lie.  Animals don’t criticize.  If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.” – Betty White