I can’t even begin to explain how amazing my trip to Kennedy Space Center was. Let’s just say that it didn’t work out for us to go out on the launch pad, and I’m still thrilled.
Everyone at the space center was so amazingly helpful and we got some great photos thanks to my photographer for the day, Zach Thomas.
I should also give Zach credit for suggesting mood music on the way in. We slipped the “Apollo 13” soundtrack into my CD player (yeah, I know…I need an iPod. Zach pointed it out too.) and just as we rounded the corner and the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) came into view, the tempo of the music picked up. It couldn’t have been more perfect if Ron Howard had been directing it. I immediately had goose bumps and a huge geeky smile spread across my face.
We were total nerds all day. Just the idea of getting a media pass from the official badging office was exciting. They took our pictures, gave us our badges, and we were on our way.
Our first stop was the media center to conduct my interview (we were there on official business after all). The public affairs staff were both professional and friendly, and not at all put out by the fact that we were there from a small college alumni magazine. They were genuinely excited to share their facilities with us and to have us talk to one of their employees about his work.
Alumnus Mike Galluzzi was even more welcoming, and I can’t wait for my story on him to be published. He obviously loves his job and feels very lucky to work in the aerospace industry.
After the interview we were able to get just outside the perimeter fence where Atlantis sits on pad 39A waiting for its May 11 launch to service the Hubble Telescope. In the distance, we could see Endeavour, waiting on pad 39B in the event it is needed for a rescue. And I just kept thinking of all the amazing discoveries that had happened as a result of the work that goes on at this place. I mean this is where they launched every space mission — from the original Mercury 7 astronauts to the current shuttle fleet. Neil Armstrong and his crew set forth from this very spot to land on the moon 40 years ago. How can you not be awe-struck by that?
Then we headed back toward the media center to go inside the VAB. (For those who don’t know, that’s where they assemble the shuttle and wheel it out for launch.) It’s something like a cross between a large factory/warehouse and something out of a science fiction movie.
In this enormous structure, scaffolding stretches all the way to the ceiling. In one of the four high bays, they are working on the new Constellation program Ares 1X test rocket. Its descendants will be destined for the moon and maybe even Mars. And I was like a kid in a candy store. I could not believe what I was witnessing. Mars!? The idea that I might live to see this in my lifetime is just too much. It has always been amazing to me that we have the knowledge and technology to leave the Earth and explore new worlds. How cool is that?
Although, I think Tom Hanks said it best when he portrayed Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13”: “It’s not a miracle. We just decided to go.”
Up next: we’re headed to Monday’s launch of Atlantis on the final Hubble servicing mission. I’m sure I’ll have something to say about that too. Oh and remind me to tell you sometime about our near-breach of national security.😉