Written by Linda Kaye on 24 Mar, 2004
It all began on October 1, 1958 when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was born with this simple statement: ". . . to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere and for other purposes". Just…Read More
It all began on October 1, 1958 when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was born with this simple statement: ". . . to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere and for other purposes". Just one year before on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the Sputnik 1. The race was on.
Project Mercury (1961-1963) was designed to see if man could survive in space and on May 5, 1961 Alan Shepard, Jr. rode a Mercury Capsule on a 15-minute suborbital mission. John Glenn was the first American Astronaut to orbit the Earth in 1962.
Project Gemini (1965-1966) consisted of 10 flights and introduced the two-man spacecraft. On June 3, 1965, Gemini 4 Astronaut, Edward H. White, Jr. became the first American to walk in space.
Then came Project Apollo (1968-1972). In response to President John F. Kennedy announcement on May 25, 1961, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" Apollo 11 put the first humans on the Moon with the famous quote by Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969 " that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" fulfilling Kennedy’s dream.
And who could forget the Apollo 13 near-disaster, when the cliché "Houston, we have a problem" came into being.
From this beginning came satellites in space (Echo, Telstar, Relay and Syncom) Skylab, the Space Shuttle program, launching and repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, countless scientific discoveries and just recently the successful landing of the Sprit and Opportunity on the Martian surface, which may point to the possibility that life may has or still exists out there!
Of course, there have been tragedies along the way. In 1967, Roger Chaffe, Gus Grissom and Edward White died in a fire in their Apollo capsule while on the ground. In 1986 The Challenger crew was lost when the main liquid fuel tanks exploded just after liftoff and in 2002 Columbia disintegrated over the U.S. killings all onboard after a successful mission in space.
NASA Quote: Our exploration of space has taught us to view the Earth, ourselves and the universe in a new way. While the tremendous technical and scientific accomplishments of NASA demonstrate vividly that humans can achieve previously inconceivable feats, we also are humbled by the realization that Earth is just a tiny "blue marble" in the cosmos,
This close-up and personal behind the scenes tour is well worth the $62.00 ticket. It is advertised as a 4-hour tour, but ours lasted over five and we wanted it to last longer. The tour is presented only once a day beginning at 11:45, Monday…Read More
This close-up and personal behind the scenes tour is well worth the $62.00 ticket. It is advertised as a 4-hour tour, but ours lasted over five and we wanted it to last longer. The tour is presented only once a day beginning at 11:45, Monday through Friday and is limited to twelve (12) people.
We met our guides at the assigned time and meeting place near the Tram Tour and received our VIP badges. There were 10 guests and two guides that made up our group. We boarded a small NASA Bus and drove from the Space Center through the NASA Security Gates to Building 3, the Astronaut’s Cafeteria, so called because it is adjacent to the Astronauts’ official offices.
We were each give a $4.50 credit ticket and we could choose between the daily special, burgers and fries or the salad bar. Our choice was the special- Southern Fried Chicken, twice baked potatoes and a choice of steamed vegetables. The food was delicious. Unfortunately, there were no astronaut sightings. While at the Astronaut’s Cafeteria, we visited the small gift shop. This is the best place to buy souvenirs because they do not charge any sales tax and the items are slightly cheaper. I don’t know why no tax- maybe its considered an intergalactic site not covered by any earthy domain. Harry had his eye on a NSAS cap and I was taken with the beautiful mission pins that all the employees wear with great pride.
Our next stop was at the Sonny Carter Training Facility’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. The NBL is also known as the world’s largest swimming pool, measuring 102 feet x 102 feet and is 40 feet deep. Through the crystal clear water we could see a mockup of the Orbiter’s Payload Bay and modules of the Space Station. We could see two astronauts working on one of the modules. The objective of this training mission was to close a pass-through hatch. It sounded like a simple task to us, but in this weightless environment and in the full spacesuits, it was difficult. It appeared the astronauts had been working on it for several hours, and could continue until they got the procedures down pat.
Next was Building 32, the Space Training Facility Lab and the Zero Gravity Chamber, where the Martian Landing Unit was tested for its bouncing characteristics. The chamber was depressurized to create an atmosphere similar to that on Mars. This test gave NASA an advance idea on how the Martian Lander would perform the delicate landing. This site was another one of many that simply blew our minds- the shear size dwarfed our stature. We felt so tiny. If you saw the movie "Armageddon", you might recognize this area.
Hanger X houses mock-ups of not only the space shuttle, but also all of the individual modules for the International Space Station. We were able to view them from the catwalk high above, giving us a great vantage point.
Our last stop was Rocket Park, the outdoor display of the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo rockets. It is amazing standing close by these giant masses of metal that once took Americans into space.
The Level 9 Tour was coming to an end. Our heads were filled with so much information and excitement; we could hardly wait for the next day to complete our visit to the Space Center.