The Kennedy Space Center

Cape Canaveral, FL

November 28th, 1999

We took a trip out to Cape Canaveral but were turned away by security. The launch area is actually on an Air Force Base which is still under a def-con alert which has lasted since the last embassy bombing over a year ago. Only military personnel are allowed on the base unescorted. We were directed to the Kennedy Space Center which offers tours of most of the space facilities as well has housing quite an exhibit area itself. The front of the visitors center is distinctively reminiscent of a theme park, complete with turnstiles and ticket counters, which we had to pass to enter the display area. The park, if one could call it that, takes up several acres with about half of it open to the public. The remainder requires an access badge. The badges create multi-level access according to price, with only the highest level accessing all the attractions. We elected to avoid the badges and wandered the public sections. There is a shuttle mockup with a ramp that allowed us to climb inside and see what life was like during those days in space. From the cockpit to the payload bay, the ship is quite small to be spending any time living it. The living area is split into two levels, while the cargo bay is all in one with the giant robot arm swinging from the wall. The shuttle orbiter on display was the "Explorer" which was lifted into space on the back of an SRB and has a length of 122 ft. and a height of 56.7 ft. Its wingspan is 78.1 ft. and has a dry weight of 150,000 lbs. The three main engines can create a thrust of394,260 lbs each, with a burn time per launch of 8.5 minutes. The cargo bay is 60 ft long and 15 ft wide capable of carrying a 65,000 lb. payload. The SRB or solid Rocket Booster was laying on its side next to the orbiter. It is 149 feet long and 12.2 feet in diameter. Each weighs 1,300,000 lbs. The solid propellant consists of aluminum powder, iron oxide and a polymer binder. It is capable of a two minute burn after liftoff creating 31 million tons of thrust. The rocket garden displayed most of the rockets used by NASA from the Mercury series through the Saturn V. Each had its own plaque describing the rocket's function and size. One of the impressive points was the various sizes of the rockets. The little Mercury looked like a toy some rocket club would have shot up into the air, while the mighty Saturn V was a giant among the other examples of rockets used since the beginning of the space program.

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