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Published: September 13th 2013
WOW! What a great day and better than any Disney trip you could ever do! Whilst researching this trip earlier in the year we noticed that KSC ran a 'Mega Tour' which you could book online for about 90 dollars. We booked and it was well worth it!
Somehow it seemed appropriate that we were at NASA on Sept 11th although was surprised how little there was on the news or anywhere apart from the flags all flying at half mast.
The day started with detaching the RV umbilical life support and departing St Augustine. We were slightly later than planned having suffered from severe heat and humidity during the night peppered with a heavy rainstorm at 2am
which woke me up, a) from the noise of the rain pelting the side of the RV but b) from the fact I woke up thinking I was in the shower....had left the sunroof above the bed wide open (to try and deal with the heat).
We waved goodbye to the ducks, jumping fish, turtles and squirrels and all the other wildlife we had met over the last few days and hit the road. The drive was about 90 minutes and
we arrived just in time for our mega tour having travelled another largely empty set of US highways.
KSC appeared empty and we were quickly shepherded onto our tour bus for the 3.5 hour trip. Despite having done some research, neither of us could really remember what the trip entailed and as we pulled up at the first Stop, a view of the 30-40 different launch pads across Kennedy and Cape Canaveral from several miles away, it wasn't looking great. Luckily some Dolphins swimming through the inland waterways made up for it.
After 10 minutes it was back on the bus and then the real fun began. First we were taken right inside the assembly building where they put the shuttles and rockets together before rolling out to the launch pad. An enormous and iconic building that could assemble 4 shuttles at any one time it was just amazing to be in and appreciate the sheer magnitude of the space and work that had gone on to prepare over 100 shuttle and Apollo flights. It's now being readied for the next generation of NASA rockets to travel to the ISS and beyond and we were privileged to see
a full mock up of the new Orion capsule that they have in there to start planning and testing how they will assemble and shift it around the huge building in a couple of years time!
We also got to stand alongside the massive transporters and platforms that the shuttle and other rockets have been built on before travelling the 4 miles at 1mph out to the launch pads. More than 40 years later they are still using the same kit to move rockets, boosters, shuttles et al out to launch.
After the assembly building we followed the path these huge transporters take ( a pebble lined track) out to the shuttle launch pad. We got close and I was impressed at just how close we were allowed to go to take photos initially but then we were loaded back onto the bus and taken right up to the launch pad and the blast chambers below the tower that the rockets heat from over the years has charred and melted. Such a privilege to be so close to that kind of history and never in my wildest dreams imagined NASA would allow such close access to what is
still a very live site ( although no launches planned there for a couple of years yet!)
From the launchpad it was then on to the Titan rocket hangar to see the huge rocket suspended from the ceiling complete with background history and interactive exhibitions of moon landings, things brought back from the moon and loads of other info. And exhibits.
The tour finished back at the KSC visitor centre but there was one last thing to see....the Space Shuttle Atlantis, recently unveiled in a new multi million dollar exhibit it was amazing. Very cleverly introduced by a film on the history of the shuttle, the screen suddenly disappears to reveal the real Atlantis, hanging from the roof of the hangar with payload doors open and robotic arm out. Surprised to see how small it really was in real life and the fact that the outer skin is not smooth like a plane but more patchy like a continual quilt from all the various tiles and heat shields. It almost looks like its wrapped in a soft lumpy quilt.
It is a truly amazing exhibition and presentation of the shuttle and there is loads to see and
do around the main exhibit including mockups of hubble, the ISS and a simulator to help you understand and experience what being in the shuttle at launch is all about. Shas and I both experienced chins and cheeks slapping around under the simulated G force of a launch...no more pancakes for breakfast!
There were still a number of other exhibits in the main visitor centre to see and do but by this time we had spent so much time in awe of the tour and shuttle, we hadn't realised the KSC was actually closed and most people had left! What a pair of nerds! So off we went back to the beast and pulled out of the KSC carpark ignoring the signs and following the trusty satnav which took us straight into a NASA restricted area. The soldier on duty luckily saw the funny side and stopped the traffic to allow me to perform a graceful U turn with the beast across the central reservation and back out of the gates.
We headed off in search of our stopover for the night via a Wallmart to buy a cheap desk fan to try and keep cool during the
night (as the air conditioning sounds like a train if you leave it on). About 20 mins after leaving the KSC security perimeter guards we rolled into the Great Outdoors RV and Golf resort at Titusville.
This place is like nothing we have ever seen before. Set at the end of a long driveway the resort is enormous with its own RV sales and repairs store, church, golf club, holiday homes and RV sites. Most are permanently owned sites that people take their huge RVs and park up for the whole summer or even the whole year. Our beast was one of the smallest vehicles in the whole place! The site is so huge most people have there own golf buggies to get around . The most amazing thing however is the RV sites themselves. Whilst trying to find out site for the night we took a wrong turn into a 'street' of huge tiled roof, double story car-ports. Each is individually owned with the idea being the RV essentially parks up under the roof and there are rooms, bars, conservatories, barbys and just about anything else you can think of surrounding the RV in the centre....just an unbelievable
place at the end of an unbelievable day.
Sadly our own parking spot was a bit more basic but still had plenty of room in a nice manicured setting. Being out in the middle of nowhere there was also a lot of local wildlife, as well as eagles and turkey vultures overhead, there were plenty of deer wandering through the site, many with babies and very tame, not like the ones in our garden at home! On her last fag break of the night, Shas was scared out of her skin by a rustling in the grass in the dark, a quick grab of the torch revealed an Armadillo snuffling around, digging up the lawn...the look on her face was a picture.
Result of the evening was when I found out we had been running the air conditioning totally wrong for the first few days and once the filter switch was repositioned we had calm normal cold air flowing throughout the RV rather than one jet stream hitting the kitchen floor.
Coastal drive tomorrow to look forward to if the heat and/or the wildlife dont get us first.
Tot: 3.045s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 11; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0377s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb