Kennedy Space Center

Vehicle Assembly building
Vehicle Assembly Building

Jim and Elizabeth spent 2008 Christmas season on Florida's Space Coast. The weather cooperated and was perfect for sightseeing and birdwatching. We stayed in a reasonably-priced motel at Titusville which is in the center of attractions that we were interested in visiting. Two days were spent touring Kennedy Space Center.

We were taken on a tour of a launch control center. While not used today, it looks as if operators just stepped away. We saw a similar complex where each console had a built in ashtray. Apparently as the stress level rose, so did the smoke level. Smoking is no longer permitted in the launch complex.

Apollo/Saturn V Center
Apollo/Saturn V Center

The image above was taken of a 363-foot long moon rocket. Even with the widest setting, our camera wide-angle lens was unable to include the entire rocket in the image. This rocket is separated at each stage so you can view major subassemblies. Saturn dwarfs all of the missiles that Jim worked on while he was in the Air Force.

The spacecraft with gold shield is an Apollo Lunar Lander. Jim recalls building a plastic model of a Lander and photographing it against a space-like background many moons ago (pardon the pun).

Lunch With an Astronaut
Lunch With an Astronaut

Elizabeth and Jim had lunch with Astronaut Jon A. McBride in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. A number of tourists just like us signed up for a nice buffet and were treated to a great motivational talk by Jon. He was born in Charleston, West Virginia but considers Beckley, West Virginia as his hometown. He told us his grandparents came from Mason County where we live.

Tiles on Space Shuttle
Tiles on Space Shuttle Belly

The above image shows ceramic tiles on the belly of a Space Shuttle. Notice that every tile is numbered and chosen specifically for each location. Each tile is inspected before and after every flight and replaced or repaired if necessary.

Model of Snark Missile
Model of Snark Intercontinental Guided Missile

As a guidance system instructor on the Snark Intercontinental Guided Missile, Jim traveled to Cape Canaveral sometime about 1958 to look over the shoulder of Northrop during their launch of a Snark missile. Even though he worked on various other missiles for another 30-some years, he had not been back to the Space Coast. A scale model of a Snark missile is on display at the space center. Jim learned on our trip that there was a skid pad built in an attempt to land Snark after a test flight using remote control, but these efforts were unsuccessful. The circular error of probability of Snark ever hitting a target was so large that the Snark missile program was scrapped after being operational in Presque Isle, Maine, for a short time-period.

Elizabeth signed us up for two days of tours. Nothing is free here; tourists support the NASA Visitor Center. Our first day found us on the NASA Up-Close Tour. On day two, we took the Cape Canaveral Then and Now Tour. Both tours take you around the complex in air-conditioned tour busses. Above, Elizabeth chats with a very nice gentleman who was our bus driver. He was a wealth of information about the early days of the Space Center and the missile program in general.

The image above shows construction of a launch platform which will replace the current Shuttle program. We ran into a contractor staying in our motel who was working on this massive facility. Our tour guide explained that the purpose of the tall structure on top is a lightning rod, which is also like several others planted around the complex. EMP caused by lightning can damage spacecraft electronics. The foreground fence is designed to keep out alligators as well as people.