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Fun Photo Friday — Kennedy Space Center Favorites 1


Mercury-Redstone (suborbital) and Mercury-Atlas (orbital) manned vehicles

The first of two Fun Photo Fridays showing Kennedy Space Center favorites:

Alan B. Shepard — First American in Space

Shuttle Atlantis panorama

Saturn IB in repose

Cloud Iridescence hiding behind a Gemini-Titan II

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Repositioning South — Kennedy Space Center Part 2


Full Saturn V assembly and Apollo Mission logos

Today we’re just going to mosey around the Race to the Moon: Apollo/Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. There are many Apollo artifacts here to see, such as the actual Apollo 14 command module:

Apollo 14 Command Module

The interior is glassed off from prying fingers, but you can still peer inside:

Inside Apollo 14

Here is a replica of the lunar suit worn by Gene Cernan during the Apollo 17 mission (the real suit is on display at the Smithsonian):

Apollo 17 lunar suit

This image is a statue depicting geologist Harrison “Jack” Schmitt’s excursion on the lunar landscape during Apollo 17:

Statue depicting lunar astronaut (and former senator) Harrison H. Schmitt

Did you know we actually sent a dune buggy to the moon? Three times? This is an LRV (Lunar Roving Vehicle), similar to one used during Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17:

Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV); the Lunar “Dune Buggy”

But the star of this show is overhead. That’s the various components of the enormous Saturn V rocket that sent a dozen men to the moon over the course of six missions:

The five Rocketdyne J-2 engines of the Saturn V S-II second stage

Saturn S-IVB third stage with single Rocketdyne J-2 engine

Apollo Command Module with Launch Escape System

Put it all together you get this view from the end opposite of the picture at the top of today’s article:

Saturn V assembly with Lunar Excursion Module in foreground

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Repositioning South — Kennedy Space Center Part 1


Apollo Firing Theater

While our journey aboard the Royal Caribbean ship Adventure of the Seas may have started off in Quebec as a fall foliage cruise, it was never meant to remain so. This was also a repositioning cruise, as Adventure of the Seas need to get to its winter season port of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. So, after a couple of days at the bridge table, we arrived at Port Canaveral, Florida. Ursula already had our excursion planned out for this stop — Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Apollo program mission logos

This was a particularly emotional visit for me. As a child, I can recall watching in the school auditorium on a black & white television several of the manned space launches of the early 1960s. On May 5, 1961 I watched Alan Shepard become the first American in space inside a cramped Mercury space capsule for a suborbital flight atop a Redstone rocket for the Freedom 7 mission.

Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden—Mercury-Redstone and Mercury-Atlas on left

Nine months later, on February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in his Mercury “Friendship 7” capsule blasted into space atop an Atlas rocket. We held our collective breaths in the auditorium waiting to hear from Astronaut Glenn that he was all right after Mission Control announced that his capsule possibly had a loose heat shield.

KSC Rocket Garden—Atlas-Agena (left) Gemini-Titan II

And then, following Mercury came  Project Gemini, which sent two-man crews into space aboard the Gemini capsules, lifted into orbit by the much more powerful Titan II rocket. To me, Gemini was the most beautiful capsule design of the era, far surpassing either Mercury or Apollo. In comparison, it was like a sleek two-seat sports car next to the stodgy Mercury college student econobox or the misproportioned Apollo Command Module family station wagon.

Interior of an Apollo capsule

But nothing captured the imagination of the era quite like the Apollo Program.  Over fifty years later, and only now are we finally getting around to building a rocket that’s almost, but not quite, as powerful as the incredible three-stage Saturn V. When fully assembled with the Apollo LES (Launch Escape System), Apollo CSM (Command and Service Module), and LEM (Lunar Excursion Module), this giant stood 363 feet/111 meters.

KSC—Saturn V Rocket

Powering the first stage of the Saturn V were five revolutionary Rocketdyne F-1 engines, which together generated 7,891,000 lbf/35,100 kilonewtons of force. To this day, the F-1 remains the most powerful single combustion chamber liquid-propellant rocket engine ever produced.

KSC—The massive Rocketdyne F-1 engines of the Saturn S-1C stage

We’re now going to visit the Apollo Firing Room Theater:

Apollo Firing Room Theater

In this mock-up, which is in the Race to the Moon: Apollo/Saturn V Center, overhead monitors play recorded scenes from the launch of Apollo 8 — the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit and head toward the Moon.

Apollo launch scenes

Off to the side I got a glimpse of the STDN (Spacecraft Tracking and Data Acquisition Network)  status panel, which would display what stations were receiving current data from an Apollo mission.

STDN—Spacecraft Tracking and Data Acquisition Network

Inside the Race to the Moon you’ll also find several more displays, including a full-size diorama of a lunar landing site, complete with LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) and suited astronauts:

KSC—Sound stage where NASA faked the lunar landings (just kidding)

Full-size Lunar Landing diorama with LEM (Lunar Excursion Module)

 

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