NASA Social at Kennedy Space Center

I feel like I’ve been hit by lightning. Twice. Well, that sounds like a bad thing has happened to me, and it’s pretty much the opposite of that. A really awesome thing happened to me. Twice. Let me explain… Remember when I went to that event called a “NASA Social” at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory? And it was kind of an ‘opportunity-of-a-lifetime’ thing? I went to my second NASA Social, this time at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I don’t know what the actual chances are mathematically, but I know that I’ve been throwing my hat into the ring (so to speak) nearly every NASA Social for years and years and was never selected. And then I was, twice in less than a year!

This NASA Social was built around the Space X CRS 4 resupply mission to the International Space Station. There is a really good “overview and highlights” summary here and the press kit is here if you want to know more about the mission and what was going to the International Space Station. (It’s really fascinating stuff!)


Over the course of two days we were “press” in the NASA TV briefing room for five different panels.

“SpaceX CRS-4 Earth Science Cargo Previewed”

“SpaceX CRS-4 Technology Cargo Previewed”

Made in Space website and more about the 3D printer.

“SpaceX CRS-4 Model Organisms Cargo Previewed”

“ISS ‘View from the Top’ Briefing”

“Next SpaceX mission to ISS previewed”


We also had speakers come talk to us separately from the briefing room.

(Techshot couldn’t give us shot glasses at a NASA sponsored event, so they gave us “paper clip holders” and can’t be held accountable if we use them for other things. Like delicious beverages.)


The Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center is the tourist attraction, a space theme park if you will. I had one free day in Florida and I am so glad I spent it here. The sheer amount of history on display is overwhelming, and if you’re a space nerd like me, one day is not enough. (Some of these photos are horrible and for that I apologize. I’ll never understand why, when setting up items for museum display, those in charge choose dim lighting and reflective surfaces. There were so many impressive items that aren’t pictured here, these are just the best photos from a bad lot.) If you ever get the chance to go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center, GO! You won’t regret it.


Space Shuttle Atlantis

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center, but I separated out these pictures from the others because, well, there’s a lot of them. I’m a little obsessed, you should see how many pictures I took of her and didn’t post! To me every single photo of Atlantis is a special snowflake showing details that aren’t shown as well as in the twenty other identical photos taken at the same angle, but your mileage may vary. 😉

I know I have been all about Endeavour these past few years but that’s because she’s here in LA and I can see her as often as I can convince someone to take me to the California Science Center, but if you’d asked me as a child which was my favorite Space Shuttle I’d have said Atlantis. If you know me really well, you probably know why. Anyone want to guess? (Hey, I never said it was a good reason!)

Does anybody who follows me on twitter remember when I sat, just kickin’ it, underneath Space Shuttle Endeavour? (8 year old me would NEVER believe it!) Well, I’ve done that under two Space Shuttles now, and it never gets less cool.

And like any good theme park, they are more than happy to take your picture and your money.


The Astronaut Hall of Fame was really impressive, lots of displays and artifacts that deserved way more time than I had to give them. Once again, poor lighting and reflective surfaces, apologies. It is separate from the Kennedy Space Center, but a general admission ticket to KSC gets you in free to the Hall of Fame. If you’re visiting KSC make time to stop here.


The Space Shuttle Crawler

The giant vehicles were used to carry spacecraft from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad. The pair of crawlers were originally built in 1965 to transport the Saturn V rockets, and transported orbiters ready to launch during the length of the space shuttle program. Each crawler is the size of a baseball infield, and is powered by locomotive and large electrical power generator engines. Hydraulics keep the crawler surface flat even when it is going up an incline. In the future, one is expected to take commercially operated rockets and spacecraft to the launch pad. The other is being strengthened to handle the Space Launch System (SLS), a rocket and launch tower combination heavier than even the Saturn V moon rockets the crawlers were designed for. (I stole that info from a NASA document here, which you should all go read, because it’s kind of fascinating. Some more history about the crawlers is here.)


ULA’s Horizontal Integration Facility

ULA is United Launch Alliance, the love child of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. (Their marketing people probably don’t want me to describe it that way, sorry!) The floor is the Horizontal Integration Facility is the flattest in the country. That is a Delta IV rocket you see there, getting ready for a planned December launch. This will be the rocket that takes Orion on its first test flight. Historic!

Here I am standing in front of a Delta IV rocket. Or part of one anyway, one of us was too wide to fit in the photo!

Whoever does social media for ULA made my day. Almost no one I encounter knows what my online ‘name’ is a reference to, @ULAlaunch not only got it, but told me they loved it.

There is a cool video here of the roll out and lift of this Delta IV rocket.


Is it possible to have romantic feelings for a building? I think if it is, I have a massive crush on NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building. The photos show that the VAB is big, but what they don’t show you is just how big. No really, the VAB is even more impressive in person.

  • NASA’s VAB was constructed using 65,000 cubic yards of concrete, 45,000 steel beams, 1 million steel bolts, and 98,590 tons of steel.
  • It would take 250 billion ping pong balls to fill the VAB. (That is 791 times the population of the United States.)
  • 13 Saturn V rockets were processed for Apollo and the Skylab space station.
  • The American Flag on the front of the VAB is 209 feet high and 110 feet wide. The blue field is the size of an NBA regulation basketball court. Each star is 6 feet across. Each stripe is 9 feet wide.
  • The VAB high bay doors are the largest doors in the world at 456 feet high, and take about 45 minutes to completely open or close.
  • It took 6,000 gallons of paint to originally paint the American flag and bicentennial logo on the VAB.
  • The VAB’s 325 ton crane can lift 47 full grown African Elephants.
  • Space shuttles were prepared in the VAB for 135 missions.
  • By volume the VAB = 3 1/2 Empire State Buildings.

(Facts totally stolen from a handout on the VAB we were given.)

A quick peek inside the Vehicle Assembly Building


If you’ve ever seen pictures of rockets ready to take humans to the moon or of a space shuttle ready to launch, you’ve seen NASA’s Launch Complex 39, made up of launch pads 39A and 39B. Launch pad 39A has been leased to Space X who are modifying it to launch various Falcon rockets. Launch pad 39B will be modified for SLS and other commercial launches. I really can’t say enough about the history these launch pads have seen.

We were driven out to launch pad 39B. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been privileged enough to do, and I got a bit emotional.


Space X was very busy getting the Falcon 9 rocket ready to launch at another launch pad, and we were allowed to go to the launch pad and watch. The Falcon 9 is horizontal until just a few hours before launch, so it might not look the way you’re expecting it to.

This is also where the story takes a horrifying turn. (Dun, dun, DUN!) On the bus before getting out to see the rocket we were warned that a giant rattlesnake had been spotted around there in the last few days and to watch our step. There’s pretty much nothing that will make me freak out more. I got out of the bus, snapped as many pictures as I could in a very short amount of time, and climbed back on the bus to sit and wait for everyone else. (Assuming everyone wasn’t taken out by the snake and I was in fact the last living human who would ever board that particular bus.) So what did we learn from this experience? My fear of snakes is actually greater than my love of space awesomeness, and when push comes to shove I’m not ‘team player.’ Alien invasion or zombie apocalypse? I’ll fight (and die if necessary) shoulder-to-shoulder by your side, comrades in arms. But snakes? I’m outta here, it’s everyone for themselves!



And then it was time for the launch… It was the middle of the night. These things rarely stick to schedule. The weather was bad and getting worse. Everyone was trying to stay positive, the bus ride to out viewing site was actually really fun, but I think we all knew… And then the launch was scrubbed. For a number of reasons I couldn’t change my travel plans to stay for the launch attempt 24 hours later. (And there was no guarantee that one wouldn’t get scrubbed too.) So there ended the NASA Social for me. I was a little bummed not to see a launch, sure, but overall the experience was so overwhelmingly amazing and full of bucket list moments that I really can’t be sad. Kind of like getting sprinkles on the icing on your cake, you can’t really be sad if there isn’t confetti while you eat it. (Did that even make any sense? It makes sense in my head, I swear!)

NASA image of the launch of SpaceX-4

Here is video of the liftoff of SpaceX-4. You can watch it the same way I did, online.


The #NASASocial #SpaceX4 Family (minus a person or two)

This was the view out my window on the flight home.

Thank you to NASA for having this event and inviting me. Thank you to Jason and everyone on the social media team for all their hard work. Especially thank you to Andres who I know I made extra work for, and who never once seemed anything less than delighted to accommodate me. Last but not least, huge thanks go to a very special friend without whom I wouldn’t have been able to attend in the first place. This really was a highlight in my life and something I will never forget!

If you would like to opportunity to attend an event like this one watch the NASA Social page on the NASA website, follow @NASA or @NASASocial on twitter, like NASA on Facebook, follow NASA on Instagram, or just go to the webpage that lists all of NASA’s social media accounts and you can pretty much find NASA everywhere.


Other links:

ULA Launch on Instagram posted pictures of our visit here and here. (Can you find me in that first one?)

@carnolddesigns put together a “storify.com” of the NASA Socal here and posted pictures here.

Schelley Cassidy posted pictures here.

My first NASA Social, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

4 thoughts on “NASA Social at Kennedy Space Center

  1. Mazal HaMidbar

    this is beyond amazing and i don’t have time to read the whole thing now but i was so glad to see this post. i really enjoyed meeting you again last month (after so many years) and hope i can see you again toward the end of the year when i come back to california for a visit.

    Like

    Reply

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