NASA's massive Vehicle Assembly Building
Each stripe on the flag is as wide as a standard freeway lane
When built, this was the largest building in the world by volume
If you appreciate the history of our space program, it's hard not to be fascinated by most everything KSC has to offer. We arrived around lunchtime and hopped on a tour bus (a free tour is part of admission) to the Launch Complex 39 Observation Gantry. I'm actually going to include those photos next time; I took so many that I think it's best to break this into two posts. We then hopped back on the bus and spent a couple hours in the Apollo / Saturn V Center. They have an actual Saturn V mounted horizontally inside - honestly, I shouldn't have to say anything more than that. It's awesome.
I will elaborate slightly to remind you that - 44 years after it first flew - the Saturn V is still the tallest, heaviest, most powerful rocket ever launched by mankind. I've seen plenty of missiles and rockets in person before (many in the Missile & Space Gallery at the USAF Museum) but nothing compares to a Saturn V. It's just an incredible piece of engineering and machinery. I was also excited to see the other Apollo-era vehicles including a real Lunar Module and a Command/Service Module. The whole race to the moon is just fascinating to me and I never tire of seeing the remnants and reading up on the history.
Entering the Apollo / Saturn V Center
The actual launch control room from the Apollo era
The Saturn V is, quite simply, a massive thing of beauty
Patches from all the Apollo missions hang next to the Saturn V
Command Module and Launch Escape System
Apollo Command/Service Module
Apollo Command/Service Module
Apollo Lunar Module
Lunar Module simulator
The infamous Astrovan
Vehicle Assembly Building as seen from the Apollo / Saturn V Center
Launch Pad 39-A as seen from the Apollo / Saturn V Center
We spent a couple more hours back on the main grounds of KSC after returning from the bus tour. Gina and I went on the Shuttle Launch Experience, a ride that simulates a Shuttle launch. To be perfectly honest, it was kind of underwhelming. Basically, you're strapped in, the thing rotates so you're sitting vertically, and then it vibrates like crazy for about two minutes. It was neat and all, but let's just say I'm glad it was included in the price of admission. They also have a full-size mockup of a Shuttle that we walked through; the payload bay was bigger than I would have expected.
The Constellation Sphere, 9 tons of granite suspended by water
Part of the new Orion vehicle that's still in development
The building that houses the Shuttle Launch Experience
Inside the Shuttle Launch Experience briefing room
Explorer, a full-size Shuttle mockup
Payload bay of the Explorer mockup
It was a good place to hide from the rain!
Space Mirror Memorial
Thousands of signatures and messages wishing Atlantis' crew good luck
Inside the Astronaut Hall of Fame
Memorial for the Challenger and Columbia crews at the Astronaut HoF
After a fun day at the Space Center, we finished up with about an hour at the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Had I known just how much was inside, I would have absolutely scheduled more time there. They had so many neat items that have flown in space or were part of the space program and everything in there was extremely interesting to read about. Come to find out they even have a centrifuge that you can get a ride in! Not that I probably would've jumped at that opportunity, but still... you don't find those available to the general public very often - if ever!