Tuesday, April 30, 2013

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

(Huntsville, AL)  Hi 84  Lo 52, Sunny and nice. Right outside the gate of the Redstone Arsenal where we’re staying is the U.S. Rocket and Space Center. The Huntsville area, and NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center and Redstone Arsenal in particular, have a rich history in our space program, dating back to when the first rockets were first designed in the 50’s. Research and testing of most of the rocket engines were done in this area. Andi took off work early today and she and her son Mike met us at the entrance to the Center.

It’s a large complex consisting of two main indoor museums and many outdoor displays. We paid our admission price, which included an IMAX movie, and started browsing the hundreds of displays of all kinds. We walked around outside in continuous amazement of the original and life-size replicas of rockets and missiles of all types. The centerpiece is the mighty Saturn V rocket, which can be seen for miles around.

It’s the most powerful rocket ever built, and stands 363 feet tall. It’s the rocket that took us to the moon in the 60’s and 70’s. The five engines on the first stage produced a total of 7.5 million pounds of thrust. Here’s Dee and Mike checking out one of the engines.

The space shuttle “Pathfinder” is a steel and wood mock-up that was built for training purposes. It’s a perfect-size replica of the shuttles that were built for flight. Also, this is the only display that has the “full stack” of solid rocket motors and main fuel tank.

From the front it looks like it’s all fuel tank.

Other rockets were on display. In this shot, the tallest rocket with “USA” on the side is the Redstone rocket, which was used for the first manned flights of Project Mercury in the early 60’s. The silver rocket laying on its side is the Atlas rocket, used for Project Gemini, our first manned orbital flights.

This  is a mock up of the Skylab, our first space station in the 70’s. It was the precursor to the International Space Station. Adding the astronaut clinging to the side of it is a nice touch.

Here’s a U.S. Army 2-man submarine. Who knew the Army had subs? It was used to pick up debris in the ocean from rocket launches.

It was time to go inside for the 2pm showing of “Hubble” in the IMAX Dome Theater. The screen is HUGE! It’s in front of you, to the side of you, over you, and in back of you. It was an incredible visual experience.
We then tackled the indoor displays. We got a closer look at all three stages of the Saturn V, which was laid out on its side in the long hall. Dee in the photo gives a good perspective of the size of the beast.

This display of the Apollo lunar lander brought back memories. How many of you remember watching Neil Armstrong’s “One small step for a man” on TV?

And I also remember watching the fuzzy black and white footage of the lunar rover bounding over the rocky surface of the moon.

This is the actual Apollo 16 capsule. When you look inside these small capsules you wonder how three men stood it for the four to five days it took to get to the moon.

A nice chunk of moon rock.

This was shot from underneath the Saturn V rocket, showing the moon lander and Apollo capsules at the end of the hall.

The future was on display too. This Orion capsule and Aries rocket are currently being designed as our future ride to the moon. NASA has plans to colonize the moon, and then eventually go to Mars.


The capsule will hold up to 7 crew members.

We were there until closing time at 5pm. It was a lot of fun and very informative. The cost of admission is $20, or $25 if you want to see an IMAX movie. We got a $3 military discount. We feel it was a good value, and we’re glad we did it.

We all went to Andi’s house for a crock pot dinner she had cooking all day. It was yummy. After some socializing we came back home and chilled the rest of the evening. It was fun playing tourist.


Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

Good tour:) We have promised our grandson when he is old enough we will send him to their space camp program.

Bob and Jo said...

Definitely need to add this to our list, great tour.