Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Visited the US Space and Rocket Centre which has a mock-up of the Saturn V outside. In May 1961 John F. Kennedy said he wanted the US to land a man on the moon and return safely by the end of the decade. Huntsville, which was nicknamed "Rocket City" due to their rocket research facility became a focal point in this race to put a man on the moon. It is also here that Homer Hickam worked - he was the boy from West Virginia who make rockets as a boy and wanted to work in the space program as shown in the movie "October Sky" which we had seen years ago. We were told he still lives in Huntsville and often comes to the centre to visit with people. The facility also has "Space Camp" for kids and we saw several groups having a great time here.
Inside the facility is one of only 3 Saturn V prototypes that exist. It is 363 ft tall, weighs 6 million pounds and generated over 7,500,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff. The Saturn V launched the Apollo lunar landings of the 60's and 70's. This rocket remains the largest, most powerful rocket ever built.
This is a prototype of the Lunar Rover Vehicle used by Apollo 15, 16 & 17 which permitted the astronauts to explore much further and bring back more samples of moon surface. The rover is made out of very light materials and was able to be folded down compactly.
This command module for Apollo 16, the next to last lunar mission, is the only part of the huge Saturn V rocket that made the entire journey from launch to splashdown. You can see the charred heat shield from the 5000F re-entry temperature. It was amazing to touch this, knowing it had been on the moon.
I am sitting in the Apollo Command Module Simulator, used to prepare astronauts for flight to moon and back.
An Airstream shell was used to make a quarantine facility for the Apollo 11, 12 & 14 astronauts as they were concerned about human exposure to possible moon organisms. After splashdown, the crew had to put on special suits and be delivered to this converted trailer where they were tested and remained here for 65 hours.
Cramped quarters indeed - it was good that the Apollo teams all got along. Their families could visit and see them through the windows.
Definitely a 60's feel about the decor! After going through the museum, we saw the IMAX movie narrated by Tom Hanks about the Apollo missions. The nearby Redstone Arsenal US military base continues work for NASA, but since 9/11 there are no visitors allowed.

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