Mars Science Laboratory NASATweetup (Day 1) – Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

23:16 by akylas. Filed under: Space

Yesterday marks the first day of “official” Mars Science Laboratory NASATweetup activities, with a visit to the publicly accessible Visitor Complex at the Kennedy Space Center. A free ticket was given to us (a nearly $40 value) in the bag of swag we received when we registered on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately the launch was delayed one day to Saturday, otherwise the visit to the actual NASA facilities, with speakers and additional content, would’ve been today. No loss overall as I’m currently scheduled to leave on Sunday. As long as it doesn’t get delayed for an additional day, I shouldn’t have any issues.

Even so, the visit to the Visitor Complex was quite an event in itself. I was able to arrive until roughly 12:30PM, losing about 3 and a half hours of potential touring time. I sacrificed the bus tour around the complex in order to see the other attractions I’m interested in, since we’re going on a slightly different tour on Saturday as part of the NASATweetup event.

The first activity was heading to the Mission Briefing Center where NASA holds live press conferences, giving the public an updated status on the latest missions (as you would assume), which often includes various people involved in the mission to answer questions from the audience and spur discussion. Unfortunately I arrived right when the first session ended, so decided to forgo any additional coverage to be able to visit the rest of the facility in the remaining five hours.

Next was the Shuttle Launch Experience, which was quite the interesting simulation. The only other thing it could be compared to is a slightly similar ride at Disney.

Space Shuttle Explorer, next to the Shuttle Launch Experience

Space Shuttle Explorer, next to the Shuttle Launch Experience

This one involved a lot of people (unlike only four at Disney) packing into a 30 person “capsule”, which is able to rotate on one of it’s axes. The ride would begin with your back to the ground as if you were strapped into a real shuttle, and would rotate accordingly as the ride progressed. The launch itself was reduced to only about two minutes, with some preparatory and finishing events. I’d recommend attending as it’s a worthwhile experience, and you may learn (or reminded of) a couple facts about the Shuttle and its program.

After I finished with the ride, I decided to take a walk through what could be considered to be the “main” museum building at the Visitor Complex, albiet relatively small. This is when I spotted a model of our favorite robot!

Curiosity Rover

Curiosity Rover (~1/2 scale)

The younger sister of the one sitting on-top of the rocket was making her appearance in the museum to offer people a better perspective on what the rover actually looked like.

Next on the list was the first of two IMAX movies, “International Space Station 3D”. Both movies were roughly 45 minutes long, and definitely worth if it you do not reside near an IMAX theatre. My favorite scenes were most certainly the shots inside the space station, with the crew members going through the station and enjoying the environment of zero gravity. It almost gives you the feeling you’re there with them participating. I wish the movies went into a bit more historical background on each of their respective topics, but it’s a IMAX movie and all about the HD quality of the video, which I’m fine with.

In between the IMAX movies I visited the Rocket Garden, which a select few of old rockets reside for viewing pleasure.

Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

It’s an impressive area, especially if you’ve never seen rockets of these size before in person. Most of the rockets date from the early 60′s, and perhaps a couple in the late 50′s. The one laying down on its side is the Saturn I rocket. While the largest one in the garden, it does not compare in size to the Saturn V rocket, which I’ll have a chance to see in the coming days. The garden also featured very simplistic models of the Gemini and Apollo capsules. The purpose of them was to mostly allow people to get a feel of their size, and how cramped it was inside as the models allowed viewers to sit in them.

Rocket Garden at sunset

Rocket Garden at sunset

I hung around the Rocket Garden area for an hour or two, while exploring some of the other smaller attractions. I never took the bus tour around the actual Kennedy Space Center (which includes the Vehicle Assembly Building and Saturn V building) since it will be something I am doing on Day 2. What I really wanted to see was the Rocket Garden after the sun went down and the lights below bathed each rocket in light. It was pretty awesome to see, and the picture does not do it justice.

Rocket Garden at night

Rocket Garden at night

I spent about 20 minutes more in the garden after that picture was taken until the larger group initiated an effort to get dinner together.

Day 2 will be exciting as that’s when all the official events begin!