The Space Coast

Melvyn Brown
Sun 9 Jan 2011 21:59

We spent the day at the Kennedy Space Centre.  This is Melv stood next to Neil Armstrong’s space suit – I have to say I think Neil wins the sartorial contest.  It was very interesting.  I especially liked the “Garden of Rockets” and getting up close to the Saturn V rocket which was lying horizontal in its own exhibition hall (see below).  We also saw a 3D film about the Hubble Space Telescope, its repair, and some of the images it has sent back.  It was the first time either of us had seen a 3D film (where have you two been…..?)


A member of NASA staff was giving Status Briefings every hour and we caught the end of one of them.  He was saying that if the next Shuttle hadn’t been postponed they would have had twin brothers in the space station at the same time, but as it was one of them was scheduled to return before the other one was (now) going to arrive.  He invited questions at the end and Melv and I chatted to him for a while about the wind down of the space programme and its impact.  He said 5-6,000 people would ultimately lose their job but every effort was being made to encourage aerospace industries to move to the so-called Space Coast, although it was acknowledged they would never need as many people.  He told us about the commercial firm owned by Elon Musk who sold Paypal for billions which is aiming to get the contract to transport people/payloads into space (in competition with the Russians).


You didn’t have to know much about NASA’s function to see how much money they must have gone through over the years.  For example the aforementioned Saturn rocket was a “spare” – it never made it into space.  There are two transporters only one of which is needed to take the rocket/shuttle from its enormous Assembly Building to the launch pad (at 1 mile an hour).  The Assembly Building is the largest single storey building in the world and the Statue of Liberty could go through the door with 150ft to spare.  The gravel path between the Assembly Building and Launch pad had to be especially strengthened to withstand the millions of pounds of weight.  The Shuttle Landing Facility (runway to you and I) is 15,000 feet long and 300 feet wide, and there is an alternative in California in case the weather isn’t conducive and as a last resort one in Mexico too.  Although the two Solid Rocket Boosters are jettisoned after 2m 04s and retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean, there has to be a specially designed barge to bring them back.  One also presumes these people are being paid 52 weeks per year, even though the launches are infrequent.


The area is also designated a Wildlife Reserve and the sight of a little armadillo trotting along caused as much camera clicking on the coach as any of the space centre structures!









I picked up a marketing flying from the diner where we had breakfast.  “Florida Concealed Carry Permit Course” it was headed.  “This eight hour class is designed to qualify/certify the state citizen to carry a concealed weapon”.  What made me smile wryly was at the top it said “Excellent Christmas Gift Idea!!!”.  Of course in the light of the shootings in Arizona where a Congresswoman was shot through the head and six killed, there is nothing amusing about it at all.  But how is this for a coincidence?  The husband of the shot Congresswoman is that twin brother astronaut who should have arrived at the Space Station before his brother left.


I was listening to a radio report (memo to self…MUST send contribution to Public Radio before I leave States) and the first law the Republican-dominated chamber in New Hampshire passed in the new session was to permit guns to be brought onto the House floor and nearby rooms.  When questioned about the message being sent to young people, Hudson Republican Shawn Jasper said the children should learn the traditions and history of the state.  "This is an open carry state and while, for matters of decorum, I do support only concealed weapons in the chamber, anteroom and gallery, it is important that students understand this is part of our proud tradition."