Posts tagged Orlando
My wife and I visited Orlando in May. We took advantage of that trip to visit the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), America’s gateway to space!
I’ve wanted to visit the Cape since I was a little kid. I remember when the “Space Race” was a big deal, when it was important that we beat the Russians to the Moon. In those days every flight was front page news and received a huge amount of coverage in the press. Today, while space flight is no less dangerous, it is so common, that the media hardly mentions it.
The full Space Center tour costs $42 per person, and you can purchase your tickets online.
It’s an easy drive from Orlando to Cape Kennedy: just remember to bring pocket change because the highway in the Orlando area is a toll road that seems to have a toll booth every three miles or so. Also, be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes, you will do a LOT of walking at the Cape.
As you enter the KSC, you see a display of the rockets used in the early years of the space race. The Redstone rocket on the left launched Alan Shepard into space in 1961. The next rocket is the Atlas, which was used for all of the Mercury program’s orbital flights. (click on photo for larger image)
The NASA logo greets you as you enter the tourist area of the KSC. This is a special year to visit the Cape, it is NASA’s 50th anniversary. (click on photo for larger image)
After you enter the tourist center, you board a bus for your tour of the KSC. There are three stops along the way; since the buses run every 15 minutes you can spend as much time as you want at each location.
One of the first sites you see on your tour is the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). It is one of the largest buildings in the world and was originally built for assembly of Apollo/Saturn vehicles; it was later modified to support Space Shuttle operations. The VAB is 525 feet tall (160 meters), 716 feet long (218 meters) and 518 feet wide (158 meters). The Space Shuttle is mated to its solid rocket boosters, fuel tank, and cralwer-transporter in the VAB. (click on photo for larger image)
The crawler-transporter carries the Space Shuttle to the launch pad, and serves as the rocket’s support during launch. It’s top speed is one mile-per-hour and uses 150 gallons of diesel per mile. The transporter weighs 2,721 metric tons (6 million pounds), is 40 meters (131 ft) wide, 35 meters (114 ft). long (click on photo for larger image)
Your first stop is the Launch Complex (LC) 39 Observation Gantry, a four-story gantry from which you get excellent views of the KSC. The Vehicle Assembly Building is in the background, the crawler-transporter is in the foreground. (click on photo for larger image)
KSC has only two launch pads, 39-A and 39-B. Both are used to launch the Space Shuttle. This is 39-A. The military has several launch pads at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of the KSC. (click on photo for larger image)
The Space Shuttle Discovery sits on launch pad 39-B, ten days before the start of its mission to the International Space Station. This is the closest one can get to the launch pads. (click on photo for larger image)
The next stop on the tour is the Apollo/Saturn V Center that focuses on the Apollo missions to the moon. You begin in the control room that was used for the Apollo launches and go through a simulation of the launch of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon. (click on photo for larger image)
When you leave the control room you enter an exhibit hall that features a full-scal model of the Saturn V rocket, the rocket that launched the Apollo missions to the moon, and is still the most powerful rocket ever made. With the Apollo spacecraft onboard, the Saturn V stood 363 feet (111 meters) high. (click on photo for larger image)
The five giant F-1 rocket engines at the base of the Saturn’s first stage used kerosene and liquid oxygen (Lox) as propellants and produced 7.5 million pounds of thrust. They burned for almost 3 minutes. (click on photo for larger image)
A model of the lunar landing module hangs above the exhibit hall, next to a model of the third stage of the Saturn V. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin rode the Eagle to the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the landing! (click on photo for larger image)
The Apollo command module sat at the top of the Saturn V. The three astronauts traveled to the moon in the command module. Once they entered lunar orbit, two astronauts entered the lunar module for the trip to the surface of the moon. (click on photo for larger image)
The final stop on the tour is the International Space Station (ISS) Center. Visitors can walk through a mock-up of the ISS Habitation Module where astronauts live when aboard the ISS. (click on photo for larger image)
The interior of one of the ISS science modules. (click on photo for larger image)
Visitors are able to look down upon the ISS assembly area and watch as modules are assembled before being loaded aboard the Space Shuttle for the flight to space. (click on photo for larger image)
After touring the International Space Station (ISS) Center, visitors board the bus for the return to the main tourist center at KSC. Visitors can enter a full scale mock-up of the Space Shuttle Explorer. Next door it the Shuttle Launch Experience where you get to experience the first 5 minutes of a Shuttle launch. (click on photo for larger image)
The tourist center offers many options for visitors including an IMAX movie theater (we saw a movie about the construction of the ISS), gift shops, places to eat, and a movie about the American mission to Mars.
Nothing can equal the Kennedy Space Center tour, I highly recommend it. Be sure to get there early, and expect to stay all day. It is an experience you will never forget.
While I have not posted a message about my travels since my May 10 mileage run to Seattle, that does not mean I have not been traveling. I’ve made two trips in the last month, one for vacation, one for business, but have been too busy with work to post any information about those trips.
It’s a quiet weekend, so now I can catch up.
My wife and I went to Orlando, Florida for 5 days in May. We flew there on my birthday; my mileage runs paid off when we got an upgrade to First Class on the Dallas-Orlando flight.
We were in Orlando for 5 days and did not do very much. We had been there before and had gone to DisneyWorld and Universal Studios. If you are in Orlando and don’t want to visit the theme parks, there are, in my opinion, not that many things left to do.
For me, one of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Kennedy Space Center! (I’ll post a separate message with photos of that trip.) I found it quite special to visit the Cape!
We saw the Arabian Nights dinner show on our second night in Orlando. The food was good, and we saw some amazing demonstrations of horse-riding skills. You’ll enjoy this show, put it on your Orlando to-do list!
We spent the rest of our time relaxing and not doing much, so sorry, there are not many photos to post. We did see one unusual building on International Drive.
Our flight home was interesting. The weather was nice when we got to the Orlando airport, but soon thereafter the skies grew dark and it started to rain. That would not be enough to delay our flight. But then there was a flash of lightning, I knew that would be a problem.
Whenever lightning strikes, all ground personnel are immediately ordered to leave the flight line and come indoors. So, the people who were fueling our aircraft, loading food and luggage, etc. had to stop what they were doing. After 40 minutes the weather cleared up and the ground crew was allowed outdoors again. We boarded the flight on time, but had a 20 minute delay as they tried to make up for lost time as they finished loading the aircraft.
My wife and I were upgraded to First Class. Not only are the First Class seats larger and more comfortable, but you are also served a meal during the flight. I chose the mushroom tortellini, and have to say it was one of the best pasta dishes I have had in a long time! The food on our flight to Orlando was nothing special, typical airline fare, but the flight back made up for it! I wish I could find a restaurant near my home that had tortellini as good as this, I’d be a frequent visitor!
We got back to Dallas, arriving at Terminal A, and changed to Terminal C for our Austin flight. Whenever I fly American Airlines, I sign up for the flight notification system: with this feature AA calls me on my cell phone to let me know when my flight will depart, and which gate it will depart from.
When I landed I got the call telling me that we would depart from Terminal C on time. We had almost two hours to wait, so we took the tram to Terminal C and went to the Admirals Club. Then I got a call telling me the flight would be 10 minutes late. Then another call that we would be 25 minutes late. Then another call that we would be 45 minutes late. Then another call that we not only would be 45 minutes late, but would now be departing from Terminal A. Not only would we leave from Terminal A, but we would be only one gate down from our arrival gate!
So, we took the tram back to A and waited at our gate.
Fortunately, there were no further delays and we got home safely that evening.
Last year we celebrated my wife’s birthday in Honolulu. This year we celebrated mine in Orlando. I think the next birthday celebration will be here at home.
Our trip to Orlando was, when all was said and done, average. While we enjoyed the trip to the Cape and Arabian Nights, the rest of our stay, while relaxing, was boring. Orlando is best for families with kids