The Kennedy Space Center is situated on Florida’s Space Coast on Merritt Island on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The Space Center is 60 miles east of Orlando and well worth a trip. Check launch dates in case of disruption to travel in the area.
Merritt Island is also home to a wildlife refuge and totals 140,000 acres and comprises land, water and marshes. When in Florida it was one of my favourite destinations. There is abundant wildlife, to date 358 different species of birds have been sighted on the island, more than 140 species of freshwater and salt water fish and many mammals many of which are endangered. Alligators are sure to be seen resting on the banks of some of the waterways within the Merritt Island reserve together with manatees, also known as sea cows.
Merritt Island is home to many alligators in the numerous waterways
Sadly Manatee are frequently injured by boating enthusiasts not heeding warnings to avoid certain areas of the waterways frequented by these mammals.
A wildlife drive on Merritt Island
As mentioned, access to the reserve can be restricted if a launch is scheduled at the Space Center.There are viewing sites where you can safely watch the launch, not quite so dramatic these days after ending of the shuttle launch program. From viewing areas several miles from the actual launch it isn’t so much seeing or hearing but more a case of “feeling” the launch. When I lived on the Atlantic coast of Florida I would either travel down to Space View Park in Titusville or from Playalinda Beach. I remember my last visit when John Glenn was on board aged 77, which was in October 1998. I was several miles from the actual launch site and to witness the launch from across the water was a lifelong memory, the ground literally shook beneath your feet.
I saw many other launches and some that were nighttime launches were spectacular from my property some 50 miles north of the launch site.
Shuttle Atlantis launch in 2009
Some facts about Atlantis: The space shuttle is named for a sailing ship that operated out of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Maryland. Atlantis weighs 151,315 pounds, nearly 4,000 pounds lighter than the space shuttle Columbia, constructed five years prior. The maximum speed of the shuttle was 17850 mph.In fact I was fortunate enough to make contact with the Space Shuttle through my hobby, Ham Radio and have the QSL card to prove it, exciting times!
Sadly the shuttle program eventually came to an end with its final launch on July 8th 2011. Until very recently we had to rely on the Russians Space Program to provide transport of people and supplies.
The Vehicle assembly Building
- One of the largest buildings in the world by area, the VAB covers eight acres, is 525 feet tall and 518 feet wide.
- The VAB high bay doors are the largest in the world at 456 feet high and take about 45 minutes to completely open or close.
- The building is home to the largest American flag, a 209-foot-tall, 110-foot-wide star spangled banner painted on the side of the VAB.
- It is made up of 65,000 cubic yards of concrete and its frame is constructed from 98,590 tons of steel. It stands atop a support base of 4,225 steel pilings driven 164 feet into bedrock.
- The VAB was painted in 2007, when the repairs were completed after the 2004 Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne tore 845 panels off the building.
- The flag originally was painted onto the VAB in 1976 for the Bicentennial Exposition on Space and Technology.
- It will take more than 500 gallons of paint to repaint the American flag, and the NASA meatball, which measures 110 feet tall by 132 feet wide.
Saturn 5 Rocket engines ignite and produce 7.5 million pounds of thrust.
That is equivalent to 160,000,000 horsepower.
To be continued