Orlando Florida - Kennedy Space Center (part 2)

This is Part 2 of the trip that Karrie and I took to Orlando Florida. Check out Part 1, where we went to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter.

Day 4
We packed up our stuff and left the nice hotel, Windham Resorts. Today our plan was to drive about an hour to the ocean. We were hoping to visit Kennedy Space Center and visit one of the nearby beaches. It was noon by the time we saw the ocean, so we stopped for lunch and had sushi. The place had tons of different and interesting sushi rolls, the spicy crab roll was great.

Then we realized that Kennedy Space Center was only open until 6pm so we headed back inland a few miles. Entrance to the center cost $45 each which was a lot. We tried to find cheaper tickets but couldn't find any online for less than $40 and since it was Memorial Day all the discount ticket brokers were all closed.

Here's the map i used for the Kennedy Space Center.
kennedy space center map, nasa, florida, cape canaveral, rockets, apollo

The first thing we visited was the Rocket Garden. It was pretty cool, all of the old rockets that NASA has used over the years.
nasa rockets, old, wernher von braun, space, moon, mission, mercury, saturn, apollo

I had just watched a special on NOVA about the first rockets NASA sent into space. After the USSR sent Sputnik into space the United States freaked out. And there were actually two department competing to launch their rockets.
saturn rocket, nasa, florida, kennedy space center

The department headed by Wernher von Braun could have actually launched before the Soviets, but the United States didn't see any point in going into space. Anyway back to the park, both of those original USA rockets were at the park. That's when NASA began.

This was a Saturn rocket. Not the one that went to the moon, but a similar design.
saturn rocket, nasa, florida, kennedy space center, panorama, huge, launch

Karrie and i walked around and sat in a tiny 2 person capsule, the size of a phone booth, that two NASA astronauts sat in for 3 weeks and orbited the earth. I don't know how they sat there without moving for that long.
saturn rocket, nose, site, ride, nasa, florida, kennedy space center, panorama, huge, launch

As you can see from the pictures above, the sky got very dark. Tropical Storm Beryl was moving inland. They made us leave since we were all standing under 20 large metal lightning rods. So Karrie and i decided to go inside and watch one of the IMAX movies, which was just about to start. We watched the 3D IMAX movie about International Space Station. It was cool because just a week before the trip i saw that the guy who became a billionaire after creating PayPal, who is one of the founders of SpaceX, was the first non-governmentally owned organization to dock with the space station.

Here's the full IMAX movie we watched. But obviously it's a lot better when you are wearing 3D glasses and sitting in front of a 30 foot IMAX screen.

We had to leave the movie a few minutes early in order to catch the last tour bus. When we walked outside, Tropical Storm Beryl had arrived. It was really dark, pouring rain and windy. So we ran from building to building trying to stay dry before we had to just suck it up and run through the rain and deep puddles to the bus. The picture below doesn't do justice to how bad the weather was.
florida tropical storm, beryl, 2012, kennedy space center launch, watch, view, weather

But we made it on to the last bus of the day to go see the other NASA areas. Here's a map of the places the tour bus visits.
kennedy space center map, bus tour, destination, launch pad, saturn, apollo, building

We got to see the Rocket Vehicle Assembly Building which holds the world record for the tallest 1-story building and the tallest door in the world (it has 4 of them).
tallest building in the world, 1 story, biggest door in the world, nasa, rocket vehicle assembly building

This is the crawler which takes the rockets to the launch pad. I forget how much it weighs but each steel pad is 1 ton and there's something like 70 pads per track and there's 4 tracks.
nasa crawler, heavy, transport rockets, road, florida, cape canaveral

We only got to see the launch pads from a distance, they didn't let us visit them. But it was interesting seeing the areas where all missions to the moon left from.

Then we rode to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Sadly it reminded me of being back at Universal Studios, we had to wait in lines to watch short little movies. But it explained a lot about why we went to the moon. First we watched a clip that showed all the events leading up the the shuttle missions. Then we went to another room which sort of reenacted the Apollo 11 mission and how dangerous it actually was. It wasn't a set, it was the real consoles that they used. They had been moved here from the actual control center.
apollo nasa control room, neil armstrong, communicate, tranquility base, apollo 11

My favorite part of the mission to the moon was the fact that Neil Armstrong realize that the designated lading site was too rocky, even if he was able to land there, they never would have been able to take off again. So he just manually took control of the lander, steered it over to this other area and landed it with just a few seconds of fuel remaining. And listening to actual transmissions and loss of transmissions from the mission was really interesting.

But the best part was leaving that room and getting to see an actual Saturn V rocket. My description of the Saturn V rocket is the same as my description of the Eiffel Tower...it's big.

This is the "business end" of the rocket, notice the guy standing below it to get a sense for it's size. It took me 3 minutes to walk from one end of the rocket to the other.
saturn v 5 rocket, exhaust, flames, fire, port, end, huge, ship, rocket

Here's a video i took while walking under the rocket.

It's longer than a football field and super complicated. I think i heard that it's the most complex machine ever made. Which i though, "how complicated can a rocket be, it's just a tank of fuel and the hole where the flames come out." But after seeing all of wires, bolts, frames, tanks and tubes i understand. This is the connection between the 1st and 2nd stage...it's complicated.
second, 2nd stage or saturn rocket, saturn v 5, frame, huge, machine

We walked around this room for probably a half hour. And got to touch a rock that was brought back from the moon. It felt just like every other rock i've ever touched.
where is a saturn rocket, went to the moon, apollo, moon landing, blow up

It was just really cool to look at and think of all the time and knowledge that went into every piece, all without the help of a computer.
huge panorama of a saturn rocket, nasa, moon, land on moon

After leaving the Saturn V rocket hanger we watched another short movie about the actual moon landing, then got to look at other NASA gear. They showed the progression of the space suit. I remember watching another NOVA show about how the first space suits were based on the suites they wore while flying U2 bomber. Then they went to a hard almost armor like suit before ending on this more maneuverable suit type. Which looks similar to the ones they use today. The suit was liquid cooled and heated depending on whether they were standing in sunlight or not.
shepard space suit, astronaut suit, moon mission, walk on moon suit

This was the actual capsule from the Apollo 14 mission. You can see were it was burned from reentry.
apollo 14 capsul, space, moon, neil armstrong, actual ship, craft

We eventually got back on the bus and headed back to the Kennedy Space Center. We were just in time to see the last 3D IMAX movie of the day. It was about 45 minutes and showed the launch and repair of the Hubble telescope. Here's a portion of that Hubble movie, but again it's way better in IMAX 3D.

During the bus ride we saw tons of birds, the whole area is a nature sanctuary. We saw this on the road out, vultures eating a dead pig.
florida vultures eating dead pig, black, vulture

We drove back to the ocean, parked the car and walked to Cocoa Beach.
panorama cocoa beach, sunset, florida

We walked around for a few hours and it was so peaceful. The water was really warm.
walking along the ocean beach, florida

There were kids swimming and surfing. And lots of people with metal detectors, including this lady.
metal detector on ocean beach, find lost, money, watches, florida

I had my tripod and homemade ND filter and took some pictures of the pier. None of the photos came out really great, i was hoping i would get a cool mist effect from the waves.
ocean waves, pier, nd filter, homemade, mist, calm, smooth

Some of the pictures looked alright when i stood under the pier. But had to look out for falling poo from the pigeons and seagulls that were sitting on the beams above me.
under the pier at cocoa beach, ocean florida, waves, water

All of these pictures were 30 - 50 second exposures.
using a homemade ND filter at the ocean, how to

I was surprised how hard the sand was. Now i understood how people can drive their cars on it, like the first races at Daytona Beach.
water with an ND filter, homemade, diy

It was around 8pm and the sun was setting, but there was still lots of people walking along the beach.
life guard tower at sunet, beach, ocean, florida

sunset at the ocean, golden sun reflection

Here's Karrie waiting for me to finish screwing around, taking pictures under the pier.
view from pier, looking out at ocean, atlantic, florida

The pier itself was pretty cool too. There was people fishing off of it and i think there was a bar at the end.
cocoa beach pier, bar, fish, restaurant, sunet view

We didn't see any jellyfish or sea creatures that washed up on shore. Just some aquatic plants.
ocean kelp, seaweed, wash up on shore, waves

It was a calm, relaxing, last day of the trip.
florida vacation, beach, water, sun, relax, great time, how to

We eventually left the beach and drove 1.5 hours back to our hotel. We wanted to stay near the airport because our flight left early the next morning. We had to take toll roads back, it got annoying having to pay $1 every 15 miles. But we finally got to our last hotel, the Destiny Palms Hotel. Like the hotel from day 1 it only cost $50, but this one was nice and clean.

Day 5
We got up around 6:00am, showered, packed and left to drop off the minivan to the crappy Payless car rental. We caught the bus to the airport, waited for a few hours then flew home. Unfortunately we didn't get 3 seats to ourselves.

Total Trip Costs

Payless Auto $72.37
Gas $40
Parking $30

Tickets $283. 90 USF 2 day
Kennedy Space $98

Orlando Metro Resort $44.49
Wyndham Orlando $139.95
Destiny Palms Resort $49.11

Air Tran $479.20


$48 wild side dinner
$30 sushi lunch
$80 fish bones dinner
$30 don Pablo's dinner
$10 burger king dinner
$18 city walk lunch
$23.41 Jurassic park lunch
$14 butter beers
$7 skittles and mountain dew

Total $1504.93

Just over $750 each, which is a lot actually. I guess all the little stuff added up. But it was worth it, we had a great time and did not want to come home.
walking along the ocean beach in florida, sunset, vacation

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