"Columbia, Houston! We’re standing by. Over."
We have all seen the footage of man landing on the moon, but a visit to the Kennedy Space Center manages to bring to life the feelings of anticipation, fear and excitement of that moment all over again. This quote from a temporary loss in communication transmission, played as you sit in the control room and watch and hear the steps of that monumental moment was one of the highlights of my visit.
Getting up to KSC on my roadtrip from Miami, I arrived to the Visitor's Center and was directed straight to the bus tour of the greater area around Cape Canaveral to see the famous sites of the NASA Space Program, past and present.
The first takes you to the LC-39 Observation Gantry where a series of short films on the bus and in an onsite theater show you some of the uses of the launch pads and the Vehicle Assembly Building you can see dotted around this Gantry, and also a tribute to the dedicated ground crew who put each and every launch mission into reality.
From the upper level of this Gantry, we could see the SpaceX Falcon 9 on it’s launch pad. When first looking at this visit, the launch was scheduled just 3 days before I was to be there, and then it was changed to the very day. But the night before heading up to Cape Canaveral, and upon checking on the planned launched details, I found that it had been postponed again to launch on the 7th.
Next, the bus tour takes you to the Apollo/Saturn V Center a little further out, and this took all visitors through the inspiring tale of the Apollo missions, Kennedy’s declaration in the late 60s to aim to land on the moon, and then the missions that succeeding in doing so. One theater took you through the control room goings on as the mission launched, and another theater took you through footage of that first moon landing.
These clips and recounts, even withstanding the brush over of the Russia/US space race and the political messages running through, were really inspiring. For man to set ourselves, through JFK, the seemingly impossible goal of landing on the moon, just after the failed and fatal mission of Apollo 1, and then achieving it - it was hard not to get swept up in it all. The footage of Neil Armstrong talking about nothing being impossible once this achievement was realised was very powerful.
Walking around the Apollo/Saturn V, and seeing spacesuits and kits of the astronauts part of the Apollo program, was an experience in awe.
Returning to the Visitor’s Center, I then walked up to the beautiful Astronaut Memorial, and then over to the Rocket Garden where a cluster of rockets are on display out in the elements.
Checking the time, I had just made the last viewing of the movie Hubble 3D, showing in the onsite IMAX theater. Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this movie included footage from Hubble, but also told the story of Hubble repairs completed, and also of the galaxies Hubble has allowed us to see. These images really brought home what the current work around this mission is about, which the greater understanding, or at least expanding wonder, of the worlds of space around us. The vision of Orion’s Nebula, for example, and an exploding star, was just so beautiful. Plus, the footage from space of our humble Earth is just breathtaking.