Orlando (September 6-12, 2006)

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

Due to weather and storm delays, the space shuttle Atlantis was scheduled to lift off on the day we arrived in Orlando. However, the launch was delayed again because of a problem with one of its fuel cells.

Afternoon rain obscured our view of Kennedy Space Center on our flight into Orlando. However, you can see the Vehicle Assembly Building at right, the shuttle landing strip at left, and the 39B shuttle launch pad (complete with Atlantis shuttle, if you strain your eyes!) in the background at left. The white Apollo/Saturn V Center is on the shores of the lagoon behind the landing strip, and the 39A shuttle launch pad is in the centre background.

The launch was delayed till Friday September 8, which happened to be the day we'd planned to visit. So we did, on the off-chance that the launch would happen.

The entrance to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex features Explorer, a giant mock-up of the space shuttle. Visitors can walk inside it from a mock-up gantry.

Our first stop was the briefing room, to check up on the launch progress.

There was excitement in the air. On the screens, the huge countdown clock at the Press Site showed 44 minutes to go. A model of the International Space Station, Atlantis's destination, hangs from the ceiling.


T-9 minutes and holding.....

A huge TV screen out in the grounds kept the thousands who had gathered there up to date with the launch progress. However, after holding at T-9 minutes, the launch was postponed for 24 hours due to a problem with a hydrogen fuel sensor in the ship's huge external fuel tank.

After the initial disappointment, we got on with enjoying what the Visitors Center had to offer.

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger photo

Rocket Garden

F-1 engine

Rocket Garden - close up

Astronaut Memorial

Shuttle model in briefing room

Lunar lander model

Astronaut meet and greet time!

Our ticket included a bus tour. Due to the launch, we were unable to visit the Launch Complex 39 observation gantry, so our first stop was the Apollo/Saturn V Center, on the edge of the lagoon past the shuttle landing strip.

On the way, we passed the 525-foot high Vehicle Assembly Building, where the space shuttle and associated components are integrated together and placed on a launch platform. It is one of the largest buildings in the world.

Firing room during an Apollo launch countdown


Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) used for training for the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions

Restored Saturn V launch vehicle

It is 363 feet long, and the whole building is built around it

View of rear shows the five (V) F-1 engines

Lunar rock you can't touch

Lunar rock you can touch

Apollo command module

Atlantis shuttle on launch pad 39B

Launch pad 39B is to the east of the Apollo/Saturn 5 Center, across the lagoon

Launch pad 39A to the south-east

Our last stop on the tour was the International Space Station Center, where components of the Space Station are checked over and readied for flight.

Modules being tested

Model of the International Space Station

Node 1 module mock-up

Inside Node 1 module

Another module mock-up

Astronaut sleeping quarters

After the bus tour, we spent time looking at the Rocket Garden (see photos above).

The grounds were much quieter than they were earlier in the day.

All is in readiness for tomorrow's launch.....

We then drove back over the bridge to the Astronaut Hall of Fame just before it closed. We chose not to go on the G force trainer, which allows you to experience the pressure of 4 times the force of gravity, but enjoyed a quick walk-through of the other exhibits.

Our drive back to Orlando was not pleasant, as the rental car's automatic transmission was slowly giving out. We limped back along the freeway to the rental car office, where the staff eventually presented us with another car.

Turning my life around.....