Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Orlando Vacation - Wednesday

We were up and out of the condo by 8:30am on Wednesday morning so that we could head to the Kennedy Space Center. Parker had seemed pretty excited by this part of the trip when we had talked about it at home - and he had asked for that rocketship birthday cake several weeks before. Quite frankly, Mommy and Daddy were rather excited about the day's events as well - we both loved the space center as kids and neither one of us had been in at least fifteen years.

The place looks and feels completely different than it did when Mommy and Daddy were kids, but it was very nice and very exciting. Very shortly after we after we arrived at 9:30am, the whole family boarded a bus for a tour. Wesley was thrilled beyond belief to ride a "schoolbus".
The bus showed a movie as we headed out to the first tour stop - the Gantry view tower near the two shuttle launch pads. To get there we had to drive out past the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) and pass the crawlerway where the shuttles are moved out to the pads.

At the Gantry, we got off the bus and watched a short video before walking through an exhibit of mockups and then walking up the tower to check out the view. Across the water to the south of the tower you could also see the Canaveral Air Force Base where the unmanned rockets are launched from.
When we were done, we wandered back over to the bus area to catch the next one over to the second tour stop. This is a building built several years ago dedicated entirely to the Apollo missions. We first watched a movie on the big screen above these consoles - the real consoles from the Apollo control room 40 years ago.

The tail end of the Saturn V rocket which would have been used for Apollo 19 had it not been scrubbed. This rocket lays on its side and runs the whole length of the building for you to look at all the different stages.

Touching the moon rock on display.

This was Alan Shepard's corvette. Wesley actually got to touch it - he got under the ropes and ran his hand down the whole length of the driver's side door.

Snoopy as an astronaut.

Map showing the landing site of all the six Apollo missions that made it to the moon.

The lunar module intended for Apollo 15. It wasn't used when they decided to include the lunar rover on the mission and needed to make a bigger module to hold it. This was on display right next to us while we were eating in the cafeteria.

The cool van that carried the astronauts out to the launch pad!

A replica of Jim Lovell's space suit from Apollo 13. The real one is at the Smithsonian.

Replicas of the lunar rover and handtruck.

There was a great movie we watched about the Apollo missions that had real props come down on the stage in front of the screen. Afterwards, you were led into a treasure room of different items used by the astronauts on some of the Apollo missions.

The Apollo building took the longest on the tour. I think we spent almost three hours there, between touring, eating lunch and shopping. Finally we headed out to catch the bus to the third stop on the tour - the International Space Station building. From our view on the second floor behind glass, we got to observe where and how they put the items together in a clean room which are taken by the shuttle up to the Space Station. Even though Discovery had launched two days before, there were places where things were already being assembled for the upcoming May mission.
Then we got to walk through some life-size mockups of the living quarters and laboratories on the Space Station.
Finally we boarded our last bus back to the main visitors complex. We headed over to investigate the replica space shuttle Explorer on display.

Then we visited the Astronaut Memorial. Parker asked lots of questions about all the men and women who had died in our exploration of space.

After that we wandered around and looked at some different things before catching the IMAX 3D movies. Here are the guys spinning the heavy globe of constellations balancing on a stream of water.

And the boys are there somewhere inside the children's play dome.

We wanted to see the two IMAX 3D movies that were showing - one about the Apollo Missions narrated by Tom Hanks and the other about the Hubble telescope narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. Both were 45 minutes in length though and we weren't sure how the boys would do to sit through both but we decided to give it a try. We need not have worried - Wesley did ok in the first and slept through the second. Parker sat in rapt fascination and did not move a muscle through either one. That was the way he had been all day at any movie we watched in the bus and on the tour stops. Only when the movies were over would he pepper us with questions about what we had just seen and basically repeat the gist of the whole thing back to us. In between the movies we took him shopping and he picked out a kit for he and Wesley to share of all kinds of different little models of space shuttles and rockets.

We finished up our day by walking through the Rocket Garden which is so cool because of the sheer size of everything there.

The day was amazing for everyone. And what we heard all the way back to the condo from the backseat was the last ten seconds of the countdown and then rocket sounds as the space shuttle models blasted off from the hands of two very happy little boys.

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