19 May, 2008

Space Center Sunday

We said goodbye to our temporary Orlando home Sunday morning and headed out to Cape Canaveral to visit the John F. Kennedy Space Center. It was amazing!
Fountain in front of our hotel

We were told to spend the extra money and do the tour that goes up close & personal to the launch pads - there are two: 39A & 39B. Definitely worth the extra dough! There's a rocket on 39B - scheduled for liftoff the end of May. Everything is GINORMOUS. I suppose it has to be, to get enough power for liftoff, but seeing the scale in person really brings it home.
Launch Pad 39A

Launch Pad 39B

Rocket Assembly Building
(look how tiny the cars are!!)
(the stripes on the flag are the length of a bus)

Rocket Exhibit

We found out all kinds of interesting things. They flood the launchpad with hundreds of thousands of gallons of water - to use as sound insulation. The sound of a liftoff can be fatal, if you're within 800 feet (400 feet will get you fried). The "official" safest distance for viewing a liftoff is 3 miles - although they have emergency personnel as close as 1.5 miles. They have to bolt down the generator and some of the equipment that is used (that's not on the launchpad) because one time the vibrations shot the generator into the ocean. They re-use the parachutes on the fuel cells approximately 20 times, and the fuel cells themselves get reused a few times also. There's a dive team whose job it is to recover the fuel cells after they've been ejected from the shuttle liftoff.
Shuttle on Display

Turns out the Space Center hosts a 140k acre wildlife preserve, so while we were touring, we saw alligators, eagles, two eagle nests, lots of different kinds of birds, and a turtle - but no wild pigs (Greg saw a manatee, but I missed that one). To prevent harm to the animals during a liftoff, they come out days beforehand and broadcast predator sounds over speakers to drive the animals away. They also have orange groves on the property. Who knew?!?

There were loads of displays and interesting things to see and do. We went to an IMAX presentation about the space station; a simulation of a liftoff; the memorial; the rocket garden; and two bus tours. We saw several learning displays and even touched a moon rock! And of course there was a cache...
Greg on the Moon

Touching the Moon
(my manicure from less than a week ago
obviously wasn't that good)

The center closed at 6 - but we were already in the souvenir shop, so they didn't have the heart to kick us out until a bit later. From there, we headed to Coco Beach to check out some touristy things and found a nice place for dinner. We used Mom & Sara's gift card to buy dinner - thanks guys!! And it was yummy! I had blackened chicken alfredo - too bad I couldn't eat it all and we couldn't take the leftovers - and Greg had snapper done in the St. Claire style. Both were fantastic!

From there we headed south to Davie. Apparently we took the "scenic" route for part of the way, since the highest speed limit we encountered was 45mph - and most of the time it was lower. After talking to Chad, we followed signs to a major freeway and disregarded the directions on the GPS - since it was determined to take us on a more direct, but much slower route. We made it to Chad & Angie's really late, but safe & sound. On tap for Monday: hanging out, caching, visiting, airboat ride in the Everglades, visiting more & having fun.

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