Russell and I went to the Kennedy Space Center this weekend (1/11/97). It is a really neat place. One thing that surprised me is that it is also a Wildlife Refuge. On the bus tour we must have seen 6 or 7 alligators. Just floating in the swampy water or sunning themselves on the grass. We also got to see a bald eagle's nest. It was 10 feet wide and 6 feet tall. Can you imagine?
They had space related stuff there too. *smile* There is a building called Apollo/Saturn V. The building houses a real 363-foot long Saturn V moon rocket. (Point of Interest: The rocket used to be outside. It was starting to corrode due to the Florida weather. A Buffalo, NY company was contracted to build Apollo/Saturn V to protect the rocket.) You can see inside parts of the rocket. Those astronauts did not have a lot of space to move around.
The highlight of our trip was the Shuttle Launch. Russell and I were lucky enough to witness the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch on Sunday morning at 4:27am. I never saw anything like it.
On Saturday night, Russ and I went to bed at 9:30pm and got up at 12:30am Sunday morning. We packed up our stuff (We were staying at Crawford's Cocoa Cabanas in Cocoa Beach, Florida) and headed for the Kennedy Space Center. We arrived about 1:30 and boarded a bus at 2:00. The bus took us to Satellite Road. We got off and grabbed a spot on the dewy grass to wait for the launch. We were 7.5 miles away. It was only 2:45am and we had a while to wait. The temperature was 38 degrees. So, we chatted with our neighbors, a nice family on vacation, and tried, unsuccessfully, to stay warm.
At 4:20 or so, all of the outside lights went out and everyone fell quiet. It was pitch black and the stars were bright. We chose to use binoculars but you really didn't have to. I was worried I wouldn't be able to focus mine. The 6 minutes flew by. We could hear the countdown over a loudspeaker.
Suddenly we didn't notice the cold anymore. We were in awe. Fire and smoke erupted from the shuttle. It didn't move for a couple of seconds, then slowly it lifted. The whole sky was lit up. It was like a dark daytime. It certainly made the experience seem a bit surreal. The roar was awesome but the ground didn't shake like I thought it would. As the shuttle rose, it shot off to the right and got smaller and smaller till finally it was just a bright star. The whole thing lasted about 2 minutes.
Watching the Shuttle launch was amazing. I know I'll never forget it.
Kennedy Space Center