Monday, August 6, 2007


Wow does not even describe today. Awesome, amazing, phenomenal, sweet, wow. Those are just a few words to describe today. Literally I am overwhelmed with the tour that we got today. What I will try to do is give a little run down of the tour and include some of the pictures. I took about 400 pictures today.

To start with, we had to get up at 4:30 in the morning. We are staying over an hour away and we had to meet up with our group at a hotel. When we got there, the first person that we saw was Carl Walz, an astronaut. He flew on four space shuttle missions and spent six months on the space station. It was awesome that during the tour if we had a question about something, we could just ask an astronaut. He was an amazingly nice guy and had some great stories. I recorded some of them, I will try to post some of them later.

Me with Carl Walz and his crew picture that was hanging on the wall of the Space Station Processing Facility.

Our first stop was in a little meeting building where we got welcomed by Bill Gerstenmeyer. He is the associate director of operations at Kennedy Space Center. He welcomed us and answered a few questions. The big question that everyone wanted to know was, “how does it look for the launch on Wednesday?” He said that we are at a 30% chance of a no go. That means a 70% chance of a go! Woo Hoo!

With Bill Gerstenmaier - Associate Administrator for Operations at NASA

Our next stop on the trip was the SSPF. You may be asking, what is the SSPF. It is the space station processing facility. It was amazing. We were walking right next to all of the components that will be going up to the space station. We saw the Japanese module as well as many others. We also saw a huge solar array that is going up. It was in a box that was probably 20 -40 feet long and only about 8 inches deep. The panels unfold. Carl Walz said that they unfold really easily but that they don’t always want to fold back up as easily.

Next up was one of the most amazing buildings I have ever been in. It was the space shuttle processing facility. Not only was the building amazing but the space shuttle Atlantis was inside. We literally walked underneath it. I could have reached up and touched it. It was hard to see because there was a lot of scaffolding and equipment around it. We walked all the way around it and saw the front landing gear. You could just catch glimpses of the flag and United States written on the side. This was also cool for me because this is the space shuttle that launched on June 8, the day before my wedding. I realize as I am writing this that words cannot do it justice. To be in the room and standing next to the shuttle was absolutely one of the coolest things I have ever done.

Me under the Space Shuttle Atlantis. You can see the front landing gear and the black shuttle tiles behind me.

When we got back on the bus they told us we were headed to view the Space Shuttle. Now you have to understand that Kennedy Space Center is huge. It is actually very deceiving. The buildings and launch pads are so big that things look closer than they are. As we are driving on the bus, we start to pull into the parking lot for the launch tower that is a long way away. I was there two years ago and it is so far away that you can’t really get a picture with the launch pad in the background. So I was starting to get really disappointed. It turns out that we were just driving through there to look at the crawler. It is enormous. Then we pulled back out onto the road and went past a check point and drove up to the fence that surrounds the launch pad. You cannot get any closer without working for NASA and then not many people get up there. You can’t see the actual space shuttle in the pictures. It is covered and won’t be uncovered until tomorrow night at the night viewing. I can’t wait for that.

As we were standing there taking pictures, I noticed that Mr. Walz was standing over by the bus. I walked over and asked him if I could get another picture with him with the shuttle in the background. How great of a backdrop is that for a picture with an astronaut!?!

And all of the stuff above was all done before lunch. We took the bus back to the visitors complex and the first thing we did was get in line to ride the new launch simulator. I don’t know what it is like to be on the space shuttle but this had to be close. They actually tilt you backwards like you are on the launch pad. The sound effects and movements are completely realistic. Even the pre-movie was awesome. When you leave the simulator, there is a long spiral walkway that goes around a picture of earth as it would look passing under the window of the space station or shuttle. As you walk around the walkway there are mini summaries of every space shuttle mission. It was really neat to walk around and look for Carl’s mission patches.

After a quick lunch (really bad and expensive by the way) we ran into the gift shop. This place is like the holy grail of space stuff. They literally have autographs and framed artwork on the wall for sale that go anywhere from $1000 to $10,000. They had a letter signed by John F. Kennedy and a big collage of autographs of test pilots including Neil Armstrong. Needless to say I didn’t buy any of that but I did get some cool stuff to bring back.

After lunch we loaded back up onto the bus and headed out to the Air Force side of the complex. There are a ton of launch pads there. We actually missed seeing the launch of the Phoenix on Saturday morning. That is the next Mars lander. That would have been cool to see. We actually saw at least two other rockets on launch pads. We also went to the launch sites for the first satellite, first manned mission to space, the rest of the Mercury missions, and the launch pad where all of the Apollo missions launched from. At that site we could actually walk around. It was really cool but also very somber. That is the pad where the Apollo I fire was. There were a couple very moving plaques there. From that launch pad you could see the launch complex where a Delta IV rocket was on the launch pad. The Saturn V rocket would have set on top of this concrete structure with the engines blasting through the hole in the top of it.

We saw a lot of wildlife, especially birds. We saw a few turtles, some vultures, a bald eagle nest, and we saw an alligator. It looked big. Then all too soon it was time to head back. The trip back to the hotel where we met up was really cool because Carl got on the microphone on the bus and told stories about being in space. I was actually smart enough to record some of them. I will try to post some of them when I get back home.

Right now we are driving back to the hotel. It was an amazing day. I can’t wait until tomorrow night for the night viewing. We drove out to the spot where it will be and it is really close and completely unobstructed view. I’m hoping to get tons of pictures.

That is all for now. I will be posting more later. Below are just some other random pictures that I thought were cool.


Eric Langhorst said...

Marty - Thanks so much for posting about your experiences on this trip. Right now I'm sitting in my basement at Liberty and can feel the excitement in the words you are typing. Have a great time watching the launch and I'll keep checking in with the blog. Great pictures by the way!


Anonymous said...

Marty - "Wow!" it's about all I can say! What a day! I agree with Eric about how you made me feel like I was standing beside you taking it all in (I can only wish.) I remember how amazed I was walking through the Kennedy Space Center when I was there about 15 years ago. Words cannot express how it feels to walk next to something that was in space! Keep us up-to-date on you adventures. The launch should be simply amazing.