Saturday, October 4, 2014

Space Shuttle Atlantis

One of the highlights of the Kennedy Space Center tours is the Space Shuttle, Atlantis, on display at the visitor's center. Watching the launches and landings on television is not the same as viewing them in real life. This vehicle is awe inspiring. You won't want to miss it.

On display were two lunar landers. Obviously, the actual landers were discarded in space as they would not be usable with the earth's gravitational pull. However, test modules had to be made to ensure their performance once placed on the moon's surface.  This one was part of the Apollo program from 1969 to 1972.

This one is called a LRV or Lunar Roving Vehicle. It was used on three Apollo missions in 1971 and 1972.  It was a battery powered four wheeled vehicle designed to carry two astronauts, their equipment, supplies and samples they recovered.

The Apollo 14 Command Module. 

Apollo 14 was launched on January 31, 1971 with Alan Shepard, Stuart Rosa and Edgar Mitchell on board. On February 5, 1971 Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the moon, following in Neil Armstrong's footsteps in 1969.

There are several moon rocks displayed. This specimen was brought back by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972.

Apollo 17 was the final mission of  the Apollo Lunar Landing missions.
 Introducing the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The Atlantis was the fourth Space Shuttle or Orbiter, built for the space program. It's maiden voyage into space was on October 3, 1985. It made a total of 33 missions, landing for the final time on July 21, 2011.

In all, Atlantis, in completing those 33 missions, made a total of 4,848 orbits, deployed 14 satellites, docked with the Soviet Space Station MIR seven times, the International Space Station 12 times and logged a total of almost 126 million miles.

To prepare for a ride into space, astronauts had to ride simulators to get the feel and experience of an actual launch. At the Kennedy Space Center, they have one of the launch simulators. Your admission ticket allows you to experience an actual launch yourself. Pretty exciting. Yes, you do have to wear a seat belt!

Another interesting exhibit is to is try your hand at actually landing the shuttle. Simulated, of course, and after two tries, I had it mastered. 

They also have a large slide to simulate the 22% angle of descent. I burned off some skin from my elbow by not keeping my arms folded.

The "Rocket Garden" is a display of the many rockets used by the United States during the space program. All these rockets are displays only, but impressive nevertheless. Each rocket had a placard noting what it was used for and why.

Upon arriving back at our coach we watched as these tugs escorted another submarine to the Trident Port across from our site.
 That evening we were treated to a full moon over the Atlantic.

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