The Race For Space at the KSC
“Space… the final frontier”
As a child I was obsessed with space, yet the older I got the more my interest grew. On days when I’m bored, I usually watch playlists of educational YouTube videos about black holes, theories, and distant, unreachable planets and stars. One of my favorite albums is The Race For Space by Public Service Broadcasting, and amongst the long list of my favorite movies, Solaris, Moon, and 2001: A Space Odyssey all end up in my top ten. Honestly, there must be an alternate reality out there where an Andrew, much smarter than I, went on to work with NASA. All this excitement and curiosity culminated when I made my last trip to visit my father in Florida. After all, Florida is home to the Kennedy Space Center.
While driving to the Kennedy Space Center, I really had no idea what to expect, even after knowing all of the it's historic context. Cape Canaveral played its role in some of the most iconic moments in human history, from the brave few that landed on Earth’s Moon, to the national tragedy of the Challenger explosion. But I'd never read about what you actually do there. Would it be a theme park filled with high flying, space themed rides? Or was it just a dusty old museum containing countless priceless artifacts. Well… It was kind of both!
Walking around gives you countless learning opportunities from full sized rocket ships from our past, to pieces of broken ships that didn’t survive their treacherous journey off our planet. One of the more memorable moments I had was being able to sit in a replica of the Mercury space capsule. It gives you an idea of the terrifying and claustrophobic conditions those first few brave individuals endured in order to broaden human knowledge. Immediately after squishing into the Mercury space capsule, I was taken aback by the sheer mammoth size of the Saturn V rocket. It is so amazingly large that you have to take a shuttle to a separate building that holds this massive structure. It’s absolutely outstanding, the feat we’ve accomplished as a species to create something so massive and complex.
While I was personally overjoyed to look at every spacesuit and wrist-watch worn by famous astronauts throughout the years, that’s not the only experience the Kennedy Space Center offers. As aforementioned, you can take a shuttle to the Saturn V center, but the shuttle doesn’t just take you from point A to point B. They take you on an exciting tour of the Kennedy Space Center you can’t explore by foot. After all, it’s still being used as an active NASA launch site. One of my personal favorites was the massive VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). The fascinating thing is that it doesn’t look too massive when you see it yourself, and that’s because you have no reference point: no people, no cars, and no other buildings. This makes it appear to be smaller than it really is, but in reality it is so unbelievably large that it’s kind of hard to grasp. 129 million cubic feet of interior space is large enough to store three and a half empire state buildings; large enough that, “The interior volume of the building is so vast that it has its own weather, including rain clouds forming below the ceiling on very humid days.” (NASA)
The last thing I will mention is the “Race To The Moon” experience, which was by far my favorite part of my whole trip to the Kennedy Space Center. This experience is the first thing you see when you arrive at the Saturn V Center after the shuttle ride. It gives you a chance to re-live the launch of Apollo 8 with the next closest thing to time travel. Using all of the actual consoles NASA used paired with archival footage and audio, they are able to recreate the exact happenings on the launch of the first manned shuttle to orbit a world other than our own. This gave me a huge appreciation for what they have been able to accomplish with only a fraction of the technology we have today. Hundreds upon hundreds of symbols, abbreviations and acronyms lit up the countless consoles. Every single one completely integral to the mission with no room for error. Data projections flashed everywhere, and the news crew was "filming" the whole thing. The countdown began: 10… 9… The blast doors on the windows behind you close 8… 7... 6… All systems go!, and all checks are double-checked, 5… 4… No going back now. The whole building begins to shake and blinding lights shine through the cracks in the blast shields 3… 2… 1… Lift off! The whole building violently shakes, and the deafening roar of a powerful, monumental rocket erupts. The firing room relinquishes control of the space shuttle and hands over control to Houston. It’s out of their hands now. The room breaks out in cheer, excitement, and most importantly relief. Their mission is complete.
...So yes, you can say that I enjoyed myself at the Kennedy Space Center. Maybe a little bit too much. But I know you will too. It’s hard to imagine why someone wouldn’t be interested in space, but if you’re that kind of person then I would highly recommend taking the trip to Florida to experience everything the KSC has to offer. I guarantee you will grow a newfound love after spending the day walking the grounds memorializing the past, present and future of space travel.
Thank you for reading about Andrew's takeaway from the KSC. Let us know your relationship with space in the comments below, and may we never lose our love for the way-out-there!