Kennedy Space Centre – Florida, USA

Just as you, my fellow blog followers, were about to psych yourselves up for yet another golf post the weather has come to your rescue : ).  After just over two months away and 36 rounds of golf we got rained out – our first really bad weather day.  I had checked the forecast for the area where we were intending on playing golf and I saw it wasn’t too flash.  Being the eternal optimist SUNGRL that I am I still thought we would be fine and be able to get our round in at Duran Golf Club.  About half an hour out from Duran it started to rain and it got persistently heavier the closer we got.  The plan was to play golf and then go and visit the Kennedy Space Centre which is in the same vicinity as Duran.  We got to Duran and decided there would be no golf for us today.

We carried on to the Kennedy Space Station, purchased our tickets and checked out the daily schedule.  For USD50 each there is a lot you can do – you really do need a whole day for this place.  We decided to go to the IMAX theatre first and watch the 3D documentary called A Beautiful Earth.  This documentary featured astronaut captured footage of Earth and provided an insight into the future of the planet and the effects humanity has had on it over time.  It was amazing and NZ even featured.  The astronauts were based on the International Space Station which is an amazing feat in it’s own right.  They showed how various parts of the planet have been affected by climate change.  They also talked about living on the Space Station – so fascinating.  They actually lose fitness and muscle condition being up there so it is very important that they do about two and a half hours exercise a day.  They have a treadmill which actually faces downwards and they are harnessed onto it.  There are typically six astronauts up on the Space Station at any one time – they tend to go up for about six months at a time with three rotating out every three months and being replaced by a new three.  They carry out research on various aspects of space and the earth below.  See below for more detailed information on the International Space Station courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Kennedy Space Centre (KSC) was originally called NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Launch Operations Center, and became the nation’s gateway to the Moon when it was decided that the undeveloped expanse of Merritt Island had compelling advantages over other prospective sites. Work began in 1962 to build the facilities which would launch Americans to the lunar surface.

The component parts of the Saturn V rocket and Apollo spacecraft were manufactured at hundreds of locations throughout the country, but they all came together here. Throughout the Apollo program, it was KSC’s role to receive, integrate, test and launch the Saturn V rockets and their Apollo spacecraft. More than 26,000 people worked here to accomplish these final and critical tasks.

In 1963, the Launch Operations Centre was renamed Kennedy Space Centre, in honor of the fallen leader who had challenged this country to do the impossible, to go to the Moon.

The next item on our agenda was the bus tour of the entire working space flight centre.  Unfortunately it was raining even harder now and visibility was next to zero.  We could hardly make out the sights that the Guide was pointing out and talking about and there was no point taking any photos so I thought I would just borrow some from the Internet.  We saw the outline of the Vehicle Assembly Building.  The Vehicle (originally Vertical) Assembly Building, or VAB, is a building designed to assemble large space vehicles, such as the massive Saturn V and the Space Shuttle. The future Space Launch System (SLS) will also be assembled there.  At 3,664,883 cubic meters (129,428,000 cubic feet) it is one of the largest buildings in the world by volume.  The VAB is the largest single-story building in the world, was the tallest building (160.3 m) in Florida until 1974, and is still the tallest building in the United States outside an urban area.

We then drove past the launch pads.  Since the late 1960s, Pads A and B at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39 have served as backdrops for America’s most significant manned space flight endeavors – Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and space shuttle. 

Located on Merritt Island, just north of Cape Canaveral, the pads were originally built for the huge Apollo/Saturn V rockets that launched American astronauts on their historic journeys to the moon and back. Following the joint U.S.-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission of July 1975, the pads were modified to support space shuttle operations. Both pads were designed to support the concept of mobile launch operations, in which space vehicles are checked out and assembled in the protected environment of the Orbiter Processing Facility and the Vehicle Assembly Building, then transported by large, tracked crawlers to the launch pad for final processing and launch.

During the Apollo era, key pad service structures were mobile. For the space shuttle, two permanent service towers were installed at each pad for the first time, the fixed service structure and the rotating service structure.

On April 12, 1981, shuttle operations commenced at Pad A with the launch of Columbia on STS-1. After 23 more successful launches from A, the first space shuttle to lift off from Pad B was the ill-fated Challenger in January 1986. Pad B was designated for the resumption of shuttle flights in September 1988, followed by the reactivation of Pad A in January 1990.

Both pads are octagonally shaped and share identical features. Each pad covers about a quarter-square mile of land. Launches are conducted from atop a concrete hardstand 390 feet by 325 feet, located at the center of the pad area. The Pad A and Pad B hardstands are 48 feet and 55 feet above sea level, respectively.

The Guide also pointed out a few alligators in the lakes we passed.  While the interactions between man and alligator are few, the biggest problem is during Shuttle landings. Prior to each Kennedy Shuttle landing, it is the task of a special crew to clear the runway of all debris, including any alligators that might be sunning themselves on the runway surface.

Since August of 1963, Merritt Island’s National Wildlife Refuge has shared a common boundary with the John F. Kennedy Space Center on the east coast of Florida. Just south of launch pad 39A, manatees graze protected in a sanctuary in the northern end of Banana River. Between May and September, thousands of endangered sea turtles come ashore on this barrier island in the dark of night to lay their eggs. Merritt Island’s strategic location along the Atlantic Flyway provides a resting and feeding place for thousands of wading birds, shorebirds, and songbirds. Diverse habitats that include brackish marshes, salt water estuaries, and hardwood hammocks provide homes to an amazing diversity of more than 500 species of wildlife. Today these 220 square miles are managed by the Department of the Interior as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Seashore.

We were then dropped at the Apollo / Saturn V Centre which is dedicated to the Apollo Missions.  The building was built to house a restored Saturn V launch vehicle and features other exhibits related to the Apollo program. Until the structure was completed in 1996, the Saturn V was displayed horizontally for many years outdoors just south of the Vehicle Assembly Building.

The Saturn V Rocket served as the launch vehicle for the Apollo spacecraft and was composed of three main sections known individually as the S-IC, S-II and S-IVB stages.  The rocket’s Instrument Unit (IU) was stacked atop the third stage.

The Apollo spacecraft was made up of three main components; the Lunar Module (LM), Service Module (SM) and Command Module (CM).  The vehicle’s Launch Escape Systems (LES) was attached to the tip of the Command Module.

The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third United States human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which accomplished landing the first humans on the Moon from 1969 to 1972. First conceived during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy’s national goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in an address to Congress on May 25, 1961.

Kennedy’s goal was accomplished on the Apollo 11 mission when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Lunar Module (LM) on July 20, 1969, and walked on the lunar surface, while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Command/Service Module (CSM), and all three landed safely on Earth on July 24. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six spaceflights, twelve men walked on the Moon.  It achieved its goal of manned lunar landing, despite the major setback of a 1967 Apollo 1 cabin fire that killed the entire crew during a prelaunch test. 

The actual control centre used for the Apollo flights

Some Space Geeks titbits I found interesting:

The Astronaut Van – this specially outfitted van was used to transport fully suited Apollo crews from the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building to the launch pad approximatley 8 miles away.  The astronauts carried small ventilators that controlled the temperature of their suits until they connected to the Command Module’s life support system.

What we’ve learnt from landing on the moon….

The oldest rocks retrieved from the Moon indicate that it formed approximatley 4.6 billion years ago.  Since the Moon lacks the geological forces that continuously alter the Earth’s surface, the youngest moon rocks are as old as the oldest Earth rocks.

Lunar samples have revealed no evidence of past or present life forms.  The Moon contains no living organisms, fossils or native organic compounds.

The Moon and Earth are composed of different proportions of the same chemical elements including oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, aluminium and calcium.  In contrast to the Earth, the Moon is poor in elements that are essential for life such as hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen.

The Moon is not perfectly round.  It’s slight egg shape may have resulted when it evolved under the influence of the Earth’s gravitational pull.

Early in its history, the Moon melted and began to cool from the surface inward.  Meteoroid fragments repeatedly bombarded the thickening crust, covering with craters.  About 4 billion years ago, a number of larger objects collided with the Moon, leading to the formation of its massive basins.

Unlike almost all rocks on Earth, Moon rocks contain no water.  Some scientists believe that ice may be preserved deep beneath the lunar poles, but it appears that water played little or no role in the Moon’s formation.

Apollo 11 – “Tranquility Base here.  The Eagle has landed.”  – Neil Armstrong 

Date – 16 to 24 July 1969

Crew – Commander: Neil Armstrong, 38.  Command Module Pilot: Michale Collins, 38.  Lunar Module Pilot: Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, 39.

Craft – Command Module: Columbia, Lunar Module: Eagle.

Highlight – Apollo 11 achieved President Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.  After landing on the Moon with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining, astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin planted the American flag and collected the first samples of lunar soil.

Training for Apollo

Flying the Apollo spacecraft – the Apollo Mission Simulator (AMS) offered trainees an opportunity to practice “flying the Command Module.  Rigged with sound effects and visual cues, the AMS was capable of duplicating complete missions, including potential emergency situations.

Landing the Lunar Module – Apollo astronauts practiced landing the Lunar Module in the Lunar Training Vehicle (LLTV).  Known as the “flying bedstead,” the LLTV was equipped with an extra engine that supported five-sixths of its airborne weight.

Experiencing weightlessness – Apollo trainees experienced brief periods of weightlessness in a modified, high speed KC-135 jet.  Each time the plane dove from an altitude of 34,000 feet to 24,000 feet the astronauts felt a sensation of zero-gravity for approximatley 30 seconds.

Withstanding gravity forces – During launch and re-entry, the Apollo astronauts were exposed to forces many times the normal pull of gravity.  They tested their abilities to withstand excessive g-forces in a huge, whirling centrifuge.

Survival training – Desert, jungle and water survival training prepared the astronauts for potential emergency landing situations and taught them how to secure food and shelter no matter where they landed.

Lunar Firsts and Lasts

First astronauts to see the Moon’s far side – Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders – Apollo 8

First footsteps on the lunar surface – Neil Armstrong – Apollo 11

First meal on the Moon – bacon squares, sugar cookies, canned peaches, juice and coffee – Apollo 11

Only astronaut to golf on the moon – Alan Sheperd – Apollo 14

First astronauts to drive on the moon – David Scott and James Irwin – Apollo 15

Longest distance driven on the lunar surface – 19 miles by Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt – Apollo 17

Last astronaut on the moon – Eugene Cernan – Apollo 17

Astronaut Recruitment 

Who could apply – all Apollo Program applicants had to meet the following criteria:

– Age 35 or under

– Height less than 6 feet (180cm)

– Weight less than 190 pounds (86kg)

– A college degree in the sciences or engineering

– US citizenship

– Excellent mental and physical condition

The average Apollo astronaut was aged 32.5 years old, weighed 164 pounds, was 5 foot 10 inches tall, was married and had 2 children and 1 dog : )

NASA recruited two main types of astronauts for the Apollo Program: pilots and scientists.  Pilot-astronauts were required to have at least 1,500 hours of jet flight time, while scientist-astronauts had to possess a doctorate degree or equivalent experience in the sciences or engineering.

Moon Rock

This moon rock was collected by Astronaut Jack Schmitt near the Apollo 17 Lunar Module landing site.  The rock weighs 17 grams and is a fragment of a much larger original sample.  The rock is known as a mare basalt, a porous rock produced from cooled lava.  Formed approximatley 3.7 billion years ago, it is older than 99.99% of all surface rocks on Earth.  Scientists continue to study the Apollo Program lunar samples today at NASA’s Johnson Space Station in Houston and other research institutions around the world.

The Apollo Spacesuit

The Apollo progarm’s A7-L spacesuit was one of the few pieces of equipment that flew the entire mission, and had to work from launch to landing.  The suit had to interface with the command module seating, navigation and optics, and launch support system.  It also had to interface with the lunar module environmental control system and instrument system for landing and navigation.  Lastly, the suit had to be able to work with the portable life support system, and then all the way back to Earth.

“The design goal of the spacesuit was to give man enough mobility to get out and walk – and the key word is walk – on the surface of the Moon,” explained Richard Ellis, an employee of ILC Dover, the company NASA contracted to build the suits.

Three suits were custom made for each astronaut of the Apollo 14 prime crew: two suits that were flight ready and one for training purposes.  Each suit had a comfort liner, a nylon bladder to retain pressure, convoluted (coils) for movement and layers of thermal and micro-meteoroid protection.  In all, 22 layers of fabrics and materials were stitched, glued and cemented together to create the final suit assembly.  Each suit weighs almost 300 pounds (36 kg) on Earth.  Of course, in the microgravity of space a spacesuit weighs nothing.

Chill Pill – the physical demands of a spacewalk can lead to heat exhaustion.  To monitor body temperature, astronauts swallow a Thermometer Pill that ha a tiny temperature sensor that transmits internal temperature to a recorder outside the body.  Firefighters, football players, and divers have all used this device here on Earth.

It would take the efforts if ore than 500 people between NASA and ILC Dover working over several years to develop Apollo’s A7-L spacesuits.  But the suits were a magnificent engineering success.  

The suits are white to reflect the Sun’s heat and makes astronauts clearly visible against the blackness of space.

Allan Shepard’s A7-L Spacesuit – Apollo 14

Apollo 14 Capsule

Space is a dangerous place, complete with micro-meteoroids, radiation and airlessness.  And coming home from it is no easy task.  The compact and confined command module with its three main crew would be welcomed and engulfed by searing white hot flames as it slammed through the atmosphere back down to Earth.  The key factor was keeping the crew alive.

The engineers at North American Rockwell (NASA’s prime contractor for the command module) were up for the challenge. 14,000 people and a talented collection of 8,000 other companies, all worked to ensure that millions of components on the command module were in perfect order.

Named Kitty Hawk, the capsule was crafted with more than 2 million parts; nearly 15 miles (24km) of wire; a control panel with 24 instruments, 565 switches, 40 indicators and 71 lights.  It would take a journey of 500,000 miles (804,672 kms) before it safely delivered the crew back home with a cargo of more than 100 pounds (45 kgs) of moon rocks.

After exploring the Apollo / Saturn V centre it was back on the bus to visit the Space Shuttle Atlantis Centre.  his centre was opened in 013 and houses Atlantis a space shuttle that has been into space 33 times.  It is suspended from the ceiling and is quite a sight.

The Space Shuttle program, officially called the Space Transportation System (STS), was the United States government’s manned launch vehicle program from 1981 to 2011, administered by NASA and officially beginning in 1972. The Space Shuttle system—composed of an orbiter launched with two reusable solid rocket boosters and a disposable external fuel tank— carried up to eight astronauts and up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg) of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). When its mission was complete, the orbiter would re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land like a glider at either the Kennedy Space Center or Edwards Air Force Base.

The Shuttle is the only winged manned spacecraft to have achieved orbit and landing, and the only reusable manned space vehicle that has ever made multiple flights into orbit (the Russian shuttle Buran was very similar and was designed to have the same capabilities but made only one unmanned spaceflight before it was cancelled).  Its missions involved carrying large payloads to various orbits (including segments to be added to the International Space Station (ISS)), providing crew rotation for the space station, and performing service missions. The orbiter also recovered satellites and other payloads (e.g., from the ISS) from orbit and returned them to Earth, though its use in this capacity was rare. Each vehicle was designed with a projected lifespan of 100 launches, or 10 years’ operational life, though original selling points on the shuttles were over 150 launches and over a 15-year operational span with a ‘launch per month’ expected at the peak of the program, but extensive delays in the development of the International Space Station [1] never created such a peak demand for frequent flights.

The Space Shuttle program had 13 successful missions and 2 failed missions – Challenger where the launch failed and caused 7 fatalities and Columbia where the re entry failed which also caused 7 fatalities. We visited the Fallen Heroes tribute which had photos and personal possessions of each of the crew members who perished in these failed missions.

We also saw a replica of the Hubble Space Telescope which is an immensely powerful observatory orbiting more than 300 mile (483km) above the Earth.  This groundbreaking spacecraft is packed with delicate specialised mirrors, computers, and navigation equipment.  Multi-layered insulation on the outside protects it from the harsh environment of space, while large solar arrays turn the Sun’s light into usable energy.

Space Tool Box – this held tools for space walks and onboard repairs.  This box was padded to protect tools during launch, reentry, and in the microgravity of space.

There are three components to the launch – the External Tank where the Shuttle attaches to for launch, the Solid Rocket Boosters on wither side of the External Tank and the Orbiter or Shuttle itself.

I was quite surprised by how fascinated I was was by my visit to KSC – I suppose it is one thing to see these things on the TV and another to actually see and understand what is involved in such a program.  I am really pleased we made the effort to go out there and thoroughly recommend a visit to anyone who visits Orlando.

The next step in the Space Program is getting people to land on Mars.  NASA is currently designing the next heavy launch vehicle known as the Space Launch System (SLS) for continuation of human spaceflight.

The International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. Its first component launched into orbit in 1998, and the ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit and can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth.  The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays, and other components. ISS components have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets, and American Space Shuttles.

The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.  The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.  The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi) by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.54 orbits per day.

The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US. The station has been continuously occupied for 15 years and 316 days since the arrival of Expedition 1 on 2 November 2000. This is the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit, having surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 days held by Mir. The station is serviced by a variety of visiting spacecraft: the Russian Soyuz and Progress, the American Dragon and Cygnus, the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, and formerly the Space Shuttle and the European Automated Transfer Vehicle. It has been visited by astronauts, cosmonauts and space tourists from 17 different nations.

After the US Space Shuttle programme ended in 2011, Soyuz rockets became the only provider of transport for astronauts at the International Space Station, and Dragon became the only provider of bulk cargo return to Earth services (downmass capability of Soyuz capsules is very limited).

The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.  The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.  The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations. As of January 2014, the American portion of ISS is being funded until 2024.  Roscosmos has endorsed the continued operation of ISS through 2024, but has proposed using elements of the Russian Orbital Segment to construct a new Russian space station called OPSEK.

On 28 March 2015, Russian sources announced that Roscosmos and NASA had agreed to collaborate on the development of a replacement for the current ISS.  NASA later issued a guarded statement expressing thanks for Russia’s interest in future cooperation in space exploration, but fell short of confirming the Russian announcement.


This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
This entry was posted in Florida, USA, United States of America. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Kennedy Space Centre – Florida, USA

  1. Catherine Lamb says:

    Well that was a nice change – interesting!

  2. Margaret Pepper says:

    Great info. G loved it but had very limited time. He will be sooooo jealous.

    Margaret Pepper| Director
    Chester Grey Chartered Accountants Limited

    Level 2, 652 Great South Road, Manukau | Level 2, 65 Upper Queen Street, Auckland
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