NASA Space Shuttle – The final mission

NASA space centre FloridaFinal is a sad word and today in just under 7 hours as I write NASA will launch Atlantis on its final shuttle mission. I am lucky enough to have visited the John F Kennedy Space Centre in Florida in June 2007. Paul and I were on a tour of Florida and we were only a day or two into the trip of a lifetime starting in the north, reaching Key West on the most southern tip and ending in Orlando, home of the fun parks; 21 days of immense fun after going through such heartbreak.

To be honest, when I saw this stop in our program, I turned my nose up, thought, boys stuff, bound to be boring but heyho, let’s check it out. It was a coach tour so I had to check it out anyway! I was so excited to be in Florida and to be going on to Miami after that I would have gone anywhere, add to that I love visiting new places too. I sat back ready to see the John F Kennedy Space Centre. Crawler track NASA

Entrance to this centre is set up very much like a theme park, enormous car parks, and coach stops, turnstyle ticket booths that then allow you through to the centre itself set out with rocket gardens, shops and ice cream stands.

After a quick peek in the shop and a fill up of water as it was a very hot day, we were guided through to a bus stop where we hopped on a NASA bus which tool us on a lengthy tour around their massive plot. We drove past an extensive flat gravel roadway where we learnt the crawler would literally crawl for days from the ‘hangar’ to the launch pad.

The crawler transporters are 131 feet long and 113 feet wide, with a flat upper deck measuring 90 feet square — about the size of a baseball diamond — that serves as the carrying surface. They move on four double-tracked tread belts, similar to those on a military tank. Each contains 57 “shoes” weighing more than a ton apiece.

NASA space shuttle hangar

Each transporter is powered by two 2,750-horsepower diesel engines. The hydraulic system includes 16 jacking, equalizing and leveling cylinders, which keep the crawler’s surface level at all times. This leveling system keeps the shuttle from deviating, only allowing the top of the orbiter to move in an arc about the diameter of a basketball during its journey — even as the crawler climbs the short hill to the launch pad.

We climbed a station and were able to view the launch pad  and on the way back down we were directed into a large air conditioned room which was very refreshing and we could see various models of how the crawler worked and the engineering magic that went into making it.

A trip to an enormous hangar which housed a massive rocket stretching the entire length of the room, a moon buggy and a model of the international space centre too was utterly gob smacking. The sheer size of these things is unbelievable until you stand up close. we feasted on American burgers with the rocket hanging over us which was really quite something.

Before I left the centre, I popped into the shop and bought some moon rocks, a brochure to read up on and a couple of souvenirs and I left the whole experience a lot wiser and extremely happy I had visited, I never would have guessed I could have been so blown away by a space man!

I am linking up with Karin over at Cafe Bebe today in her Flashback Friday where you can find many more flashbacks