Monday, January 18, 2016

Florida, Minneola/Clermont and Kennedy Space Center

Sunday, Jan. 17th - Saturday, Jan. 30th

We arrived at Bee's RV Resort, about ten miles north of Clermont, on Sunday, got set up and drove over to Steak and Shake for a late lunch.  Yum, Yum!  We went for a short walk and these sand hill cranes were in the pond just a few yards from our camper.  Also, a small blue heron.  Monday we drove over to the visitor center and stocked up on reading materials.

On Tuesday the cranes were hanging around again, just like us, watching the locals play street golf around the perimeter of the pond.  Later we drove to Clermont to the movie Spotlight, which was very good, and came back to the campground for AYCE chicken dinner.

They were here most days when we walked by.   The oldest sand hill crane on record was at least 36 years and 7 months old, banded in Wyoming in 1973 and found in New Mexico in 2010.

Wednesday we biked part of the West Orange Trail from the Killarney Trail Head through the lovely little towns of Oakland and Winter Garden.  John went about 15 miles and picked me up another 7 miles down the trail.

This lovely little walking garden was at Chapin Station where we turned around to go back.

Besides the nice little towns you bike through, they have these really nice rest stations every six or seven miles with restrooms, playgrounds, biking supplies and rentals, and repair and air stations.

This was along the trail with an alligator and a duck, I think, and the years of the team championships.  The sign board says, "Some days nothing goes left".  I also saw a couple gators in ponds as I rode by.

Blue Pooch Spaw, mobile dog wash, parked at the Minneola Trail Head where John was waiting for me.  Several dogs were getting a bath.

Thursday I went back for a 32 mile bike ride while John went to do some shopping and errands.  This is just one of the magnificent old live oaks along the trail drooping with Spanish Moss.   Back at camp we went to the AYCE pot roast supper.

One of the ponds back at our campground where the signs remind you not to swim with or feed the alligators.  I certainly don't want to be their lunch, so I guess I'll stay out of the pond.  Friday it rained and we stayed at camp and went to the AYCE fish fry supper.  We have to get out of this campground.  The food is just too good and plentiful for our own good.  Saturday and Sunday were also cool and rainy.  In know you guys up north are all going, "Oh, boo-hoo."  But I was hoping to sit by the pool and get a little sun.

Monday we drove over to Merritt Island to tour the Kennedy Space Center.

Overview of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) with launch pads 39A and 39B in the far distance.  The Space Center is in the middle of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge acquired by NASA in the early 1960s.  In July of 1963 the Launch Operations Center was established and renamed later that year for JFK, the president who put America on the path to the moon.  In 1975 nearly half of the Space Center was designated by Congress as part of Canaveral National Seashore.  The East Coast location is desirable because rockets leaving the Earth's surface traveling eastward get a boost from the direction of the Earth's spin.  The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse built in 1868 is the only fully operational lighthouse owned by the U.S. Air Force.

The Apollo/Saturn Vs were erected in the VAB on transportable structures known as Mobile Launchers.  Each consisted of a 380' steel Launch Umbilical Cord (LUT,) and a two-story launcher base.  The LUT provided service support and access to the rocket.  After it was moved to the launch pad by the Crawler-Transporter, the Mobile Launcher acted as a platform from which the rocket was fired. 

LUT model.  The top walkway 350 feet up (35 stories) is where the astronauts walk out to the module to board three hours before take off.

This is the actual walkway used by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin on July 16, 1969 as they walked across this service arm from the umbilical tower to command module Apollo 11 on the Saturn V rocket.  Next stop: Moon's Sea of Tranquility.

The Crawler-Transporter used to move the Apollo/Saturn V rockets and mobile launchers from the VAB to the launch pad 3.5 miles away.  It is now used to transport Space Shuttle vehicles and travels at 1/2 mile per hour.  Notice the size of the semi-truck parked just to the right of it.

This is a spare crawler cleat that weighs 2,000 pounds.  There's a small model of the crawler in the picture above.  It has eight tracks and each track has 57 of these cleats.  The crawler is 141 feet long, 114 feet wide and 20 to 26 feet high (adjustable).  It weighs six million pounds with a load capacity of 12 million pounds.  Its maximum speed is 1 mph loaded and 2 mph unloaded.

A 45 minute bus tour took us out past the VAB and the two launch pads.  We saw an alligator along the way and this bald eagle.  Merritt Island is a barrier island and it is a buffer zone protected from development along the Atlantic Flyway providing a resting and feeding place for thousands wading birds, shore birds and song birds.

There are at least 12 bald eagle nests in the area around the launch pads.  The nests can reach more than six feet in diameter and they keep adding to them each year.  They mate for life and produce one or two chicks per year.  This particular 800 pound nest way up in the tree on the left is larger than a king size bed and over fifty years old.  The same nesting pair has been coming back to it for at least 28 years.  Our bus driver said that once the children are out of the nest they are not allowed to return.  And I said, "But the grand children are always welcome!"

Command Central.  We were told that today's smart phones have way more technology in than the Saturn V had.

The Saturn V is over 36 stories tall and over 6 million pounds (as heavy as 7 Boeing 747 jumbo jets) requiring over 7.5 million pounds of thrust generated by five F-1 rocket engines.  In less than three minutes it is going 6,000 MPH, is 40 miles above the Earth and has consumed 534,000 gallons of fuel.  It will eventually reach 24,000 MPH enabling it to leave Earth's orbit.  The propellants in Apollo/Saturn V weighed 5.6 million pounds, 91% of its total weight.   The blast off is the loudest man-made noise ever produced with the exception of a nuclear explosion.

These are the locations on the Moon where our astronauts have landed.  Eugene Cernan was the last man to step on the lunar surface, but he prefers to be called the "most recent" rather than the last.

The first stage of the Saturn V generated approximately 160 million HP equal to over 213 F-18 jet fighters.  More than 400,000 non-astronauts contributed their ideas and imagination, expertise and inventiveness, dedication and skill to put Americans on the Moon.  The Kennedy Space Center had over 17,000 engineers, technicians, mechanics, contractors and managers.  500 people worked several years just developing the space suits.  For the Apollo 14 capsule 14,000 people and 8,000 companies worked on the millions of components of the command module.  It had 15 miles of wiring alone, enough to wire 50 two-bedroom homes.

Lunar Module Trainer full size replica 7' 8" in diameter.  The pilot and commander flew it standing up, as it was designed without seats to reduce weight.  It was replaced by the Lunar Rover.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis Museum.  We came back on Friday to finish going through the Kennedy Space Center.  It took us two full days and we'll have to come back another day to check out the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.

Model of the Atlantis Shuttle.

Loading up the cargo space to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).  After 126 million miles of space travel, the Atlantis landed here to be on display with exhibits and simulators.  The Space Shuttle Atlantis, NASA's 4th space flown shuttle, debuted on April 6, 1985, was in service for 26 years and flew 33 missions.  It launched as a rocket, flew as a spacecraft and landed as a glider.  It has over 2.5 million parts with the history of each and every part documented by engineers.  207 astronauts flew on Atlantis spending 307 days in space with the last mission being July 8-21, 2011.  Most of the ISS was hoisted into space by the space shuttle one piece at a time.  Then astronauts went on 160 space walks to put the pieces together.  The five Orbiters (Columbia 1981, Challenger 1983, Discovery 1984, Atlantis 1985 and Endeavor 1992) flew 135 missions.

Granny driving the Shuttle.  Go Granny, Go Granny, Go Granny, Go!

One of the many play areas for the kids.

Full scale model of NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers built in 2002 by the LEGO master builder team.  With approximately 90,000 LEGO elements, it took 650 man hours to construct.  It weighs 290 pounds.  The actual battery-powered, four-wheel drive Rovers weigh 410 pounds and continue to explore the Red Planet and send new information to Earth.

The Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill named for Stephen Colbert, known for his political satire and loyal fans.  Colbert had announced he was running as a write-in candidate for the naming of the new node on the International Space Station.  They named it Tranquility, but gave him a nod by naming the state-of-the-art treadmill for him, even creating a patch for the occasion.

Space toilet where you have to line yourself up perfectly over the target, turn on the vacuum, perform and, most important, clean up!

And, of course, the patch proudly worn by the team that designed and created this necessary wonder.

Each astronaut had a little bunk like this about the size of a phone booth, for those who remember what a phone booth is.  On the left is a sleeping bag pocket to tuck yourself into and all the little things you want near you in bed are just stuck on the walls with velcro.

Replica of the Hubble Telescope.

Air Stream Astrovan that carried the astronauts to the launch pad for training and launches for 27 years starting with the 9th Space Shuttle mission.  Breakfast is always steak and eggs, a tradition started on the first American manned space flight.

Challenger left side body panel January 28, 1986.  The Challenger flew ten missions starting in 1983.  They had the first person to do an untethered spacewalk,  They had the first crew to include a woman and the first African American to fly in space.  They were the first Orbiter to land at Kennedy Space Center after a mission.  They were lost during an explosion at launch in 1986. 

Pictures of 43 tons of debris collected after the Columbia disaster.  Columbia flew 28 missions starting in 1981.  It was the first Orbiter to fly in space and had the first female shuttle commander.

Plaque with all of the astronauts who have been lost on missions or training exercises.

"The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave."
President Ronald Reagan

The names of lost astronauts randomly drifting in outer space?

Back side of the memorial, I think meant to look like the space station or maybe the rocket and launch pad.

NASA maintains a fleet of Northrup F-38 Supersonic Jets used to keep the flying skills of the crew up to date.  Rigorous training missions put the crews in situations that require them to practice working together with concentration and team work.  This 1965 Talon can take off with as little as 2,300' of runway, climbing to 30,000 feet in one minute with speeds of 990 MPH and is used as a space flight readiness trainer.

Mural of the International Space Station.

As you first enter the Space Center, you walk by the Rocket Garden where all the rockets are the real deal, except for one replica.  There is a very interesting 15 minute talk every hour explaining the history of the space program and how we were somewhat forced into it by Russia during the Cold War because of our fear of what they might do and our embarrassment of them beating us in the space race.

The building in the rear is where you can meet and greet astronauts and have lunch with them and get their autographs.  The orange in the left-hand corner is the original 35th story walkway into the Saturn V that Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin walked on, that you can also walk on here in the Rocket Garden.

One last look at the Rocket Garden on our way out.

"For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace."
John F. Kennedy

Sunset as we leave the Kennedy Space Center and Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.

The Showcase of Citrus fruit stand.  Check out the alligator and the snake on the roof.  They have all kinds of yummy homemade goodies here, jams, sauces, relishes, wines, slushies, snacks, etc.  They've got little wagons you can pull out to the orchards and pick your own oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.  They have a playground, petting zoo and tepees for the kids and a picnic area and they do birthday parties.

They give Swamp Truck rides over their 2,000 acres in these big machines.

Walking the nature path at our campground.

This fellow in our campground has a Confederate flag and an American flag hanging on the side of his little trailer.  He also drives a little golf cart around with a Confederate flag drooped over it.

The warning sign by the tree says, "You are entering a RED NECK AREA.  You may encounter American flags, Armed Citizens, The Lord's Prayer and Country Music.  Proceed at your own risk."  It must say something about your mind set if you consider the Confederate flag to be one of the American flags?

This sign was also in front of his place.  I take it to mean Keep Your Dogs Out of My Yard!

Saying goodbye to the sand hill cranes Sunday, as we head to the Thousand Trails campground about ten miles south of Clermont and a few minutes west of Disney World for the next two weeks.


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