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  Wanted: Space places for FL-TX-CA road trip

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Author Topic:   Wanted: Space places for FL-TX-CA road trip
luminary
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posted 03-25-2012 11:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for luminary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm going on a road trip across the US in a couple of weeks together with my girlfriend. While we have a decent list of things we want to do and see already, I'm sure the people here will have some good suggestions for space- and science-related places to visit.

The basic route we have planned is Orlando - New Orleans - Houston - Los Alamos - Las Vegas - Los Angeles - San Francisco. We'll be on the road for just under five weeks.

Two obvious destinations are Kennedy Space Center - we're planning to allocate two days for that, and the Level 9 Tour at Space Center Houston. Edwards AFB is also firmly on the list. In a more astronomical vein, the Very Large Array and Mount Wilson are looking good, and maybe some star gazing in the desert somewhere. We'd also like to get in one or two Manhattan-era locations - like the Los Alamos Historical Museum.

Originally we had planned to visit Huntsville too, but we're currently thinking that the hefty detour may not be worth it since we'll get to see the Saturn V at KSC and Houston as well. Input on that is most welcome - is the Space and Rocket Center worth it? With access to the Redstone Arsenal I would be more tempted since there are apparently some Apollo-era test stands to see there, but without a sponsoring employee that seems like a no-go.

Other destinations we are considering are the Infinity Science Center at Stennis which should open pretty much exactly when we pass by, the New Mexico Museum of Space History, and JPL's Visitor Day Tour.

Besides museums and visitor's centers, it would be great to see some other space-related sites of historical (or current!) significance - restaurants, motels, whatever. For example, I've seen posts here about the Mousetrap in Cocoa Beach, and what used to be The Singin' Wheel in Houston.

I'd be most grateful for any input on the above. What's worth seeing, what's not, how many science museums are too many, things like that.

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-25-2012 05:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, since you have a bit of a drive, you've got some route planning options. Huntsville could be hit easily if you plan to alter your route north and go down I-20 instead of I-10 before going south to Houston. But of course you would miss the gulf coast. Still, the drive is a little more scenic along I-20 as you've got some pretty rolling terrain from the mountain ranges while I-10 as I recall seemed flat and featureless (and kind of boring for a lot of it). Temperatures will depend on what time of the year you go through as it can be just as hot and humid in Huntsville as it is in Orlando.

As for Huntsville, personally I think the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is worth it since it does have a unique collection of stuff and a nice charm all its own (and it has a standing Saturn V replica to help you appreciate how tall the stack is and currently the only shuttle stack on display with Pathfinder). But admittedly you will be seeing a lot of rockets at KSC as well and as you say, you can't get onto Marshall Space Flight Center grounds without a sponsor (and given that you are a foreigner, that might be tougher to swing).

Here are some options worth considering though for either route.

  • National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensecola, FL If you love aircraft and space, this is probably a must visit if you wish to indeed stay on I-10. The aircraft collection here rivals the National Air and Space Museum and it is all Navy.

    I don't recall if the place has the spacecraft it used to as I believe both Freedom 7 and Apollo 14 got moved out, but they still have a space exhibit there and some other artifacts (and full size replicas of both capsules on display).

    Considering a large portion of the astronaut corps is Navy, this might be worth a stop. Plus, Florida is a long state to drive across. If you really are planning to drive from Titusville to New Orleans, this will make a good break.

  • Patricia Huffman Remembering Columbia Museum, Hemphill, TX This one is a rather small museum compared to the biggies, but it is worth a visit, in my opninion. Hemphill became the center of attention when Columbia broke apart on STS-107 and the museum is a nice memorial that tells the story and spirit of Columbia from before, during and after that fateful day in 2003.

    There really isn't much in the way of hardware there, but there are items donated by the families and it is a tastefully done display. Plus, while other museums fight over who gets an orbiter for their display, Hemphill in a sense got Columbia, or at least the spirit of Columbia. Plus, a visit there gives you a VERY good sense of just how difficult that recovery was since the trees in the area are very dense.

    Now if you use the I-20 route and say choose Huntsville over I-10, you can get to it pretty easily from the north. Then you can head south to Houston from there (about another three hours drive). The two lane roads in Texas still have some pretty high speed limits, so you can make good time even on the state roads. It might be worth a trip up from Houston as well if you take I-10, but it is a little more difficult to go west from there if you don't track back south to Houston again or up towards Dallas (which might not be a bad thing as I-20 intersects back with I-10 in western Texas).

  • Titan Missile Museum, Tuscon, AZ I don't know what you plan to see exactly in Los Alamos as the Trinity atomic bomb site and Roswell are further south (near Alamagordo). Santa Fe is pretty scenic though if you want some of that old Spanish colonial charm.

    If you angle further south and go through Tuscon, you can visit the Titan Missile Museum, which is literally an old Titan II missile silo (it was used in Star Trek First Contact) and it has a Titan on display in its natural habitat. It is the only place in the country I know where you can see a missile silo like this without working for US STRATCOM.

    The one drawback I see is you'll miss Las Vegas unless you head back north. But you would get a chance to visit another part of the country not many tourists get to visit (take lots of water though and have a good AC as you'll be in the desert). But, this is in the neighborhood of Mount Wilson as well and the desert in that area is perfect for stargazing far from bright lights.

  • San Diego Air and Space Museum, San Diego, CA Now if you do stick south instead of going to Vegas (which I do not believe has any air or space museums unless Nellis AFB has a museum nearby), you can do something a little neater as you can follow I-10 (or I-8 until it gets back to I-10) into San Diego from Arizona and you can visit one of the finest aviation museums you'll ever find on the west coast, in my opinion.

    They have Apollo 9 there and plenty of other aircraft and space related exhibits to tickle your fancy. Plus, San Diego is where Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and the Atlas Missile came from (Convair used to be headquartered there).

To visit San Diego, you would be in the heart of what was once the center of aviation for a good portion of the mid-20th Century. The Aircraft Carrier Midway museum would also be worth a visit as well for something Navy based (and they have space exhibits there as well I believe). Balboa Park, where the museum is located has some beautiful attractions there and is worth a stroll. I like San Diego since it has a nice laid back vibe compared to Los Angeles (it still has traffic of course, but it is a different mindset).

After that, you can head north towards Los Angeles and Mojave (not sure if you can get onto Edwards property for the museum there or not). Mojave is of course where a few of the private space companies are doing there thing, but I don't believe they are open for tours either. The California Science Center (future home of Endeavour) might be worth a stop, as well as the Columbia Memorial Science Center in nearby Downey, CA (next door to the old North American plant where Apollo CSMs were made and where the shuttle was designed).

I would say probably the most important thing about route planning a trip of this scale is to keep your plans flexible, especially if this is your first visit to the US (or the first time you've done a cross country US drive). Give yourself plenty of times and maybe not pack too much stuff into your itinerary as a fun vacation becomes not so fun if you try to turn it into a marathon (unless you like marathons). Plus, if you go a little off the beaten path and maybe visit some of the sites other tourists normally do not, you can have a unique experience.

Now in terms of when science museums are too much, I can't necessarily answer that. I know you'll at least be seeing one or two Apollo capsules at KSC and they have the rocket park of course. Further west the pickings get a little meager until you get to Houston (yes, the Level 9 tour is a must for a JSC visit).

Some of these alternatives I mentioned though do offer unique experiences. Personally, I love going to aircraft museums as when I went to the UK in 2003 and 2004, that was mostly what I did. But I was traveling alone. Make sure your girlfriend is up for that. If she isn't, she might get to the "you've seen one Apollo capsule, you've seen them all" mentality a little more quick than you want to. Still, you have five weeks to do this. Good luck!

GACspaceguy
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posted 03-25-2012 06:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Adding to what Jay has already produced.
  • If you are going to New Orleans then you could stop by the Michoud Assembly Facility as they have a Saturn SI-C first stage outside that is easily viewed outside the fence.

  • At the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensecola, FL the CM for the first Skylab flight is there plus a number of space exhibits, including an Apollo boilerplate on exhibit outside.

  • If you go to the Titan Missile Museum, Tuscon, AZ and you should go to the Pima Air and Space Museum They have the Vomit Comet, Super Guppy and a VIP Gulfstream GII.

  • The California Science Center is home of the ASTP CM, Gemini XI and Mercury #5, MR-2 so there is an opportunity to see Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft in one location.

  • In the San Francisco area there is the NASA Ames Exploration Center, a science museum and education center for NASA. There are displays and interactive exhibits about NASA technology, missions and space exploration. A moon rock, meteorite and other geologic samples are on display. The facility is free and open to the public.
Have a great trip!

luminary
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posted 03-26-2012 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for luminary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Now that's what I call input! Thanks a million.

Before I get into the specific suggestions I should probably explain that there are also a few non-space related things we plan to see on this trip (gasp!), and that limits our route planning options a bit. For example, New Orleans seems like a cool place, and we definitely want to see that. Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon are also both on the list. Given that, Tucson and San Diego are most likely out of reach on this trip (which is a shame, because I'd love to see the Titan II silo).

The door isn't completely closed on Huntsville, but in the end we will have to make some compromises to get this all done in five weeks while staying somewhat sane, and it still looks to me like the value added may not warrant the detour. I probably see the vertical Saturn V stack as the biggest selling point since I've always wanted to see one of those (although preferably with umbilical tower and launcher attached).

Pensacola looks like a great stop. I didn't know about that. We were currently thinking of stopping over in Panama City on the way to New Orleans, but the Pensacola and the Naval museum looks to me like a much more attractive option.

Hemphill may be a little out of the way depending on what route we take, but it looks interesting and we'll definitely consider it. We're currently leaning towards going from Houston to Austin and taking a southerly route through Texas, but Dallas is certainly a possibility if we find any compelling reason to go there.

As for California, yes, Edwards does have a public tour twice a month that includes the museum and a bus ride along the flight line. We'll be on one of those. We will look into the mentioned LA sites as well. Speaking of the old North American plant, is there anything to see there these days? Is it still an active Rockwell plant?

By the way, what tends to be the policy on (flash) photography in US museums? Is it generally allowed/disallowed, or does it just vary from one place to the next?

Finally, something I've long wanted to do is to climb into an Apollo CSM and lie down in one of the seats to get a feel for what it actually looked like when you were in there. Does anything like that exist somewhere? I have been looking, but failed to find anything. I guess the old simulators are not publicly available if they still exist, so I imagine it would have to be a mock-up. But that would really be fine too as long as the dimensions are right and the interior somewhat realistic.

Thanks again for your help.

onesmallstep
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posted 03-26-2012 04:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To add to the posts above: the USS Midway, per their website have an SH-3 Seaking painted up in the colors of 'old 66' from squadron HS-6 that participated in several Apollo capsule recoveries. They also have an H-34 Seabat copter similar to that used in Mercury program recoveries.

And if you're going to San Francisco, by all means head to another carrier, the USS Hornet, which of course is intimately connected to the Apollos 11 and 12 recoveries. They also have an SH-3 painted as #66 (used in the filming of 'Apollo 13'), an authentic Mobile Quarantine Facility, and, when I visited, a room dedicated to its role in the Apollo program. This was over 10 years ago, and the exhibits may have changed. See their site for information. Good luck with your trip!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-26-2012 04:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by luminary:
Finally, something I've long wanted to do is to climb into an Apollo CSM and lie down in one of the seats to get a feel for what it actually looked like when you were in there. Does anything like that exist somewhere?
The Kansas Cosmosphere has a climb-in Apollo command module (used in the filming of the SPACE miniseries) though I don't know how accessible it is to visitors (it is part of their space camp program).

You can read more about that one and others, here: Museums with climb-in Apollo command module?

Spaceguy5
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posted 03-26-2012 05:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spaceguy5   Click Here to Email Spaceguy5     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you go near Dallas, the Dallas Frontiers of Flight museum has the Apollo 7 Command Module. However most exhibits there are related to airplanes (They also have a T-38, though it's painted in a USAF color scheme).

mikej
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posted 03-26-2012 05:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you're thinking about going to Dallas, Apollo 7 is located in the Frontiers of Flight museum; they also have an SPS engine, a space suit and some associated parts, some Skylab artifacts, and Walt Cunningham's Ambassador of Exploration award.

While not space-related, in Mobile Bay (just off the freeway and between Pensacola and Stennis) is the USS Alabama, a WWII-era battleship with 16-inch guns. They also have a Gato-class submarine, various aircraft (B-25, B-52, C-47, P-51, A-12), and a Redstone missile. The battleship and sub are self-guided, and very little is off-limits. I sat in one of the anti-aircraft emplacements on the upper decks, turned the wheel, and was surprised to find that the turret was moving!

GACspaceguy
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posted 03-26-2012 07:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a sit in CM trainer in Huntsville.

p51
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posted 03-26-2012 07:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I second the USS Alabama. You don't see WW2 battleships every day and it's right next to the highway.

There's also a WW1 battleship at San Jacinto, Texas. The USS Texas is the only existing battlewagon if it's type.

You can't miss a trip to the Alamo along the way, too.

There's the USAF armament museum south of I-10 near Eglin AFB. If you like airplanes with guns, it's an impressive stop. And if you happen to be a fan of the WW2 movie, "12 O'clock High", it's where they filmed all the airfield scenes, at the reserve base at Duke Field along the way to the museum.

Panama City really is not that big a deal. It's just a tourist trap (and a small one) with some very pretty sand beaches. I grew up not that far from there. It's a good place to be in the Summer (not when a hurricane is rolling in though, several hit the town over the years).

Seeing that I'll be doing a similar trip myself this fall (Tallahassee to the four-corners are then up through Colorado to I-90), I'll be in the Houston area on that trip. My wife won't allow too much time, but any good spots to hit along the way that a true space fan shouldn't miss?

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-26-2012 09:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I know Huntsville had a sit in CM trainer years ago. I heard it was pulled from display for a few years. But if it has been returned to the museum floor, that is your best bet for sitting inside a CM.

I spent close to an hour inside of the thing when I went to Space Camp years ago and it really did give a good idea of what it feels like inside a capsule (it is not fully enclosed as it is open on the sides, but it has couches and the main instrument panel).

Monument Valley eh? Must be an Airwolf fan (and or Doctor Who). Still, if you did angle further south, you could check out Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ (and Apollo astronauts did geology training there). The Grand Canyon has some cool attractions as well, but be aware it might be crowded since it is a popular tourist destination of course.

I think whatever you decide will be some good choices. And you might find some new and exciting stuff that none of us has even considered.

By the way, as for the Rockwell plant in Downey, it is no longer in use as Boeing left the place in 1999. Part of the old main factory building is being used as a movie studio now, but the rest of the building is still unused (not open for tours I don't think unless the Aerospace Legacy Foundation has people that can get in there still). It likely will be torn down except for the studio part in a year or so as Downey has approved plans to develop it into a shopping center area. The Columbia center next door likely tells a lot about its history and I believe they currently have a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian of space suits used in all the NASA programs (of course, Space Center Houston has suits on display as well). The center also has two boilerplate capsules on display.

p51
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posted 03-26-2012 09:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
Still, if you did angle further south, you could check out Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ (and Apollo astronauts did geology training there). The Grand Canyon has some cool attractions as well, but be aware it might be crowded since it is a popular tourist destination of course.
Don't know if your route will take you there, but the Grand Canyon is one of the few places on earth that is more impressive in person than in photos or TV. I'm the original, "Been there-done that" guy who's been almost everywhere. Even I was awestruck with the place.

Meteor Crater is one of the most impressive rarely-visited places in Arizona. It's not far off the highway, costs a pretty penny to get into, but it's well worth a visit. They also have an Apollo boilerplate.

When my wife and I were there, NASA people were in the bottom of the crater doing geology field work for the Contellation program. Sadly, at that point, we all thought they'd really be going back to the moon in a few years. Oh how I wish I knew who was actually down there...

luminary
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posted 03-27-2012 01:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for luminary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Man, there's just too much stuff to do...

I'll look for conclusive information on whether the climb-in CM at Huntsville is still there. If so, that would go a long way towards putting Huntsville back in the game.

Winslow crater does sound good, and isn't too far off our intended route. I have heard of the place, but didn't know NASA did geology training there. Sounds like I'll have to revisit the proper episode of From the Earth to the Moon.

The USS Alabama sounds like a great stop. The USS Midway probably won't happen as it's in San Diego, but the USS Hornet will most likely receive a visit!

luminary
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posted 03-27-2012 01:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for luminary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by p51:
...but any good spots to hit along the way that a true space fan shouldn't miss?
Our trip starts in less than two weeks, so I'll make sure to report back any findings.

New Mexico Museum of Space History near Alamogordo looks good to me, we'll probably visit that.

SpaceKSCBlog
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posted 03-27-2012 07:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceKSCBlog   Click Here to Email SpaceKSCBlog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A couple places here on the Space Coast that tend to be overlooked:

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-27-2012 03:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That's right, I forgot about the new museum at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). It is free and tells the story of the military side. Plus, I believe there are tours of the CCAFS being offered again. Well worth a stop while in the area.

Valiant Air Command is a good stop as well. They have a nice collection of aircraft including a VERY well preserve F-14A Tomcat with the TF-30 engines still in it (most of the Tomcats in museums no longer have their engines due to the US Government wanting to keep engine parts out of the hands of the Iranians). Valiant at one time also was partnered with a warbirds group based closer to Orlando to offer T-6 Texan and Stearman bi-plane rides, but I think the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 5 killed that.

Still, the Police Hall of Fame next door to the Astronaut Hall of Fame (worth a visit) periodically offers helicopter rides over the area in a Robinson R-44 four place helicopter. Seeing KSC and CCAFS (along with Merritt Island and Cocoa Beach) from the air is quite an inspiring sight. Personally, I liked it a little better from the front seat of an open cockpit Stearman bi-plane myself.

Also, don't forget about the Astronaut Hall of Fame as your Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center ticket gets you admission to there as well. Granted they don't have as much stuff on display, but there are some unique space exhibits there as well and it is worth a stop.

Kermit Weeks' Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, FL might be worth a visit as well since it is just south of Orlando. They have a great collection of Warbirds as well and usually fly a different one everyday if the weather permits it. You can even challenge your girlfriend to a dogfight in their simulators.

luminary
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posted 03-28-2012 12:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for luminary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It looks like a biplane tour of the KSC and shuttle runway is possible. We'll just have to do that, no question about it. Great tip!

mikej
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posted 03-28-2012 08:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just verified with USSRC curator Ed Stewart that the sit-in CM simulator is currently on display.

I didn't ask exactly where, but as I recall it's near the Lunar Module Mission Simulator in Saturn V Hall inside the Davidson Center for Space Exploration.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a great place to visit, with a lot of artifacts. In addition to the Saturn V (the dynamic test vehicle), they've got the Apollo 16 command module; an Instrument Unit (two, if you include the one on the Saturn V); a LUT swing arm (swing arm #8, which services the service module) and a white room; an engineering model of the Lunar Roving Vehicle; an LM mockup (apparently a dynamic test descent stage and fabricated ascent stage); a mobile quarantine facility (MQF); S-IVB-212 as part of a Skylab mockup featuring an ATM, MDA, and CSM boilerplate (which appears to have a real SPS engine); two stand-alone F-1 engines; stand-alone J-2, H-1, (cut-away) RL-10, A-7, V-2, Descent Propulsion System, Ascent Propulsion System, and SSME engines; the only remaining Block II Saturn I; a full shuttle stack featuring Pathfinder, a facilities check-out orbiter mockup; a Centaur G (one of which would have flown in one of the next shuttle flights after the ill-fated Challenger mission); Redstone, Jupiter, and Atlas missiles; Juno I and Juno II launch vehicles; a Mercury/Redstone; and more smaller artifacts than I can easily name.

In the Rocket Park, be sure to duck under the aft skirt of the Juno II and step inside it. While most of the engine and plumbing have been removed, you can still see the interior of the missile's skirt, aft LOX tank bulkhead, and even inside the LOX tank.

BMckay
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posted 03-28-2012 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BMckay   Click Here to Email BMckay     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Don't try to do too much space stuff and neglect the other places you can see when traveling the USA. Don't try to do it all otherwise you will not have an excuse to come back an do it again.

I have some coupons for KSC if you need some. Email me.

luminary
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posted 03-28-2012 12:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for luminary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by BMckay:
Don't try to do too much space stuff and neglect the other places you can see when traveling the USA.
Yeah, finding a good balance isn't exactly trivial. At this point we're still collecting options, but of course there is plenty of good stuff that we will have to skip for this thing to still feel like a vacation. Will contact you about coupons, thanks.

luminary
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posted 03-28-2012 12:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for luminary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mikej:
I just verified with USSRC curator Ed Stewart that the sit-in CM simulator is currently on display.

Many thanks for that. I have to say, though, assuming this is it, that it doesn't look very impressive. I'm mostly after getting a feel for the total volume and amount of "moving around space" in the CM as well as how the windows appear from the seats. I doesn't seem like this sim provides much realism in those regards.

Quite a few of the other things on the list attract my attention, though, so I guess the jury is still out on Huntsville.

SpaceKSCBlog
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posted 03-28-2012 04:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceKSCBlog   Click Here to Email SpaceKSCBlog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regarding the biplane, I see it circling all the time over the KSC Visitor Complex.

Regarding a CCAFS tour, you have two options.

The KSCVC tour is led by professional tour guides, while the AFSMM tour is led by docents. They pretty much cover the same ground but the AFSMM tour has a little more leeway because it's run by the base.

luminary
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posted 03-29-2012 03:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for luminary     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceKSCBlog:
The KSCVC tour is led by professional tour guides, while the AFSMM tour is led by docents. They pretty much cover the same ground but the AFSMM tour has a little more leeway because it's run by the base.
Bummer, the AFS tour is fully booked on the dates that work for us. Sounds like that would have been the preferred option. I guess we will get annual passes to KSC and do one tour each day, then.

Jay Chladek
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posted 03-29-2012 05:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Concerning the CM trainer, she indeed doesn't look like much on the outside. But when you sit in it, you do get a pretty good feel having the panels in front of you. As I understand it, the panels were somewhat recently replaced with flat panels with no switches (just illustrations of switches), which is a pity as in years past, the DSKY had keys that could be pressed and other switches were present. But, years of kids playing rough took its toll I guess. While it may not be EVERYTHING you want in a CSM, it does still give start at least. And I don't recall hearing about anything better available (Kansas Cosmosphere is way too far north and as Robert said, their CM is not open to everyone).

As I recall from sitting in it, I could also slightly wiggle my way from the center couch into the transfer tunnel compartment (I don't recall if it had a mocked up telescope sight on the back wall, I don't believe it did).

Now, in terms of other Huntsville attractions, it is a very picturesque part of the country. I forgot how hilly it was until I visited last summer as it is nestled in a nice valley. Listen to the accents and drawls of the people that live there and one kind of chuckles a little when you realize it was many of these same people that built these rockets alongside the Germans at Redstone and Marshall. You get this weird vibe of high tech and low tech in the same part of the country. So you get a slice of Americana that you wouldn't expect to see without going there.

Besides, on a trip like this you already plan to see where the rockets are launched and where the astronauts were based (as well as Edwards, where many came from). To me, a visit to Huntsville would help give the total package as you've got the region that designed the rocket boosters that took us to the moon. To me, that says America right there. Many people from different walks of life with different skill sets. Some seem to talk funny (compared to others), but all worked for a common goal and found they were more alike than different in their desires.

Jurg Bolli
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Posts: 520
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 03-29-2012 06:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Do not miss the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, NM, plus White Sands is a beautiful place, awe inspiring.

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