Last Day at a Launch Pad

Yesterday was our last day of vacation before we both go back to work today and it was a day full of travel, both in a literal sense and in an educational sense. We started with a very early wake-up call at 6:00 AM so we could grab a quick bite of buffet breakfast before our departure from the Freedom of the Seas around 7:15 AM. The departure was handled well, we got our bags quickly and we didn’t have any problems at customs. However, it was sad to leave the giant ship behind which had acted as our home for the past week.

After we cleared customs we started on our last excursion through the cruise, a quick trip north on a bus to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. We arrived just before they opened at 9:00 AM and stood next to a group who held their hands over their hearts as the American anthem was played at opening. Once we were through the gates Karen, our guide, took us for a tour through the rocket garden, a display of spare and mocked-up rockets and capsules from the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo space programs. After the rocket garden we were taken for a brief tour through an exhibit further outlining the missions for this period.

Our group was then taken to the new, still under construction space shuttle museum where the shuttle Atlantis will be exhibited starting this summer. Already open is the space shuttle launch simulator and if there’s one thing that NASA does a terrific job with (beyond all of the rocket space stuff) it’s their simulators. This example held 45 people and tilted us until our back was lying horizontal on our seat and rocked us around, simulating the launch and g-force effects.

After our time in the simulator we boarded a bus for a tour of the grounds, driving past the historic launch pad 39A where the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon was launched from along with several other Apollo and Space Shuttle missions. We also saw the massive vehicle assembly building (VAB) and several less massive alligators. Our guide was good but also very patriotic, trying the entire time to convince us that the shuttle program was cancelled because the mission was over, not because of any budget/safety issues.

After the tour of the grounds we stopped at the museum dedicated to the Apollo Moon missions and the massive Saturn V rocket. There we were presented with another excellent simulator, this time for an Apollo rocket launch from the KSC control center perspective. Afterwards we had lunch, touched a moon rock took many pictures of the enormous Saturn V rocket and browsed the gift shop before leaving the famous spaceport.

It was then a one hour jaunt to Orlando where we boarded our flight for Minneapolis and then home. It’s always unfortunate for a vacation to be over but it’s also always nice to be home after a long absence. Have a good week everyone!

Jason & Alix

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