Saturday, June 6, 2009

Vacation Days 1 & 2

One of the many beauties about both working in academics is having summers off. We have a lot of time to travel, and we have taken that opportunity for each of our anniversaries. Andrew and I have made it a tradition to follow the Royals wherever they are. In Tampa 2 years ago and this year, Chicago last year. We'll see where to next year. . . .but for now, here are highlights from this year's trip.
Day 1: Driving
We got up and took off on Monday morning. We would be driving most of the day. This year we decided to go to the Kennedy Space Center. One nice thing about this was a different road for driving. We drove over to Savannah and then headed down I95. It was still interstate, but new roads are always a little more interesting. We stopped for a break at an outlet mall where we found some shirts for a good deal, and a ice cream shop...yum! Back on the road and there by 9:00. Jacksonville, Florida - thought the structure in the water was interesting. Day 2: Kennedy Space Center A new fascination of mine is space travel, exploration, etc. I was very interested in the last mission (STS-125; the last to repair the Hubble). Andrew suggested we go to the space center to explore it more and I was on board! We arrived shortly after they opened at 9:00 and started at the Rocket Garden and Early Explorations. . . a good place to start! We learned about the Gemini and Mercury expeditions. It was neat to see the early rockets, space capsules, and control rooms. Models of the first rockets to get to space...look at how they changed in size over just a few dozen years. Cool! Gemini capsule that was actually in space - you can see how the heat affected the "United States" on re-entry. One of the earliest control rooms! Look at how many buttons and knobs it has. After the room on "Early Space" we headed over to see the IMAX movie about the International Space Station. It was Andrew's favorite part of the day, and I can see why. It was informative, and cool to see in IMAX. It was like we were really in space! (as a bonus, it was narrated by Tom Cruise). There was a room about the Hubble right next to the theater, so we mozied through there. They had information about the last mission to repair it...and I also found out there that they have coffee in space! So, yes Houston, I am ready for lift-off! :o) Here I am with a model of the Atlantis with the Hubble in the payload bay. . .ready for servicing! Next stop, Shuttle Launch Experience. It was a simulator that made it feel like you were taking off in a real space shuttle. I was very nervous, but it turned out to be very fun. There at the beginning I thought my head was going to rattle right off, but when the rocket boosters dropped off, it was much smoother. Even though I know it wasn't the exact same (no adult diapers on this ride), it was neat to get a small taste of what a lift-off is like.

A model of one of the orbiters that we could walk in and see the payload bay. The last thing we did was hop on the bus for a tour of some of the space center buildings. First stop was the viewing station. This is where people can go and see the space shuttles launch. It's about 5 miles away, but you have a great view. The Endeavor was on the launch pad ready for the June 13 take-off, so that was neat to see. One thing we learned was about the special gravel they have on the road that the shuttle moves along when they transport it. It doesn't allow any friction, which is important because of all the fuel in the rockets. One spark could mean very bad things!Space shuttle Endeavor. The special gravel road is on the far left of the picture next to the main road. The second stop on the bus tour was to see the Saturn V - the rocket that did all the Apollo missions. It was HUGE - slightly longer than a professional football field. No way could we get it in one picture. It was interesting to read about all the Apollo missions in the room around the rocket. The tip of the Saturn V rocket and the command module under it. The last stop was to the room where they are working on parts for the International Space Station. There was an observation deck overlooking the room where they work on parts that are going to be installed. There were even some that are going up next week - cooool! It also explained future plans for the ISS. Andrew was interested in the window going in that looks like on in Star Wars - called the Cupola. It will be installed in the fall. . . we'll keep up with the mission that includes that. :o) It also had an area that had modules of some of the segments where the astronauts work and live. The part in the front, right part of the picture is going up next week (I'm pretty sure that's the one the lady was talking about). Strap yourself in - it's time for bed! I can stop working for a quick pose (p.s. I have no idea what those buttons are for...maybe it's a good thing there was a panel there....haha)

We had a great day! We were planning on getting over to Tampa in time for the first Royals game, but the Space Center was an all day event. And that ended up being ok. We had more fun than we would've watching the Royals lose (more on that later...) We listened to the game and arrived in St. Petersburg that night.