Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kennedy Space Center

Wow. My first day was the typical tour. That was neat, but the second day, I took the NASA Up Close tour. That was remarkable.

The Saturn and Apollo program happened while I was in college. I knew, on an intellectual level, that the Saturn V was big. I know now that it is BIG. Sequoias are the biggest trees on earth. They get to be 325 feet tall. The Saturn V is 363 feet. The biggest Sequoia, the General Sherman Tree, is 33 feet in diameter. The Saturn V first and second stages are 36 feet. Wow.

The Up Close tour was just that – we were up close to the launch pads. Pad 2 is currently empty. We were literally at the ramp at the base of the pad. Pad 1 has the Shuttle on it. We were 5000 feet from it. While the shuttle itself was hidden by the gantry and protection system, the fuel tank and SRB’s were very visible.

On Friday, I saw my first launch. The Kepler observatory went up at 10:49 PM. At first, watching from about 8 or 9 miles away in my campground, I wondered where I should aim my camera. It turns out that was NOT a concern. The lights around the pad made it REALLY clear where the pad was.

At liftoff, all other lights faded to insignificance compared to the rocket.

It rose, more and more quickly, into the night sky.

At separation of the SRB’s the six separated and looked like remnant sparks from a fireworks show, except that they were so high that they just seemed to just hang in the sky, red-orange sparks marking the passage of the larger spark that continued to leave Earth behind.

After, there was just the vapor trail.

I have my fingers crossed that I will see a shuttle launch before the 13th.

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