KSC, Titusville, Florida

Kennedy Space Center: this is the place. KSC is the only location on our planet that astronauts left this world for another. I was fortunate to reside in Florida for a few years, just about 100 miles from what was once called "Spaceport USA. " KSC has made a number of positive changes to their facilities over the years, and the visitor program is better than ever. For the Lunar enthusiast, the Apollo Saturn V Center is the premier showcase, but don't miss the newly built Dr. Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility currently featuring the "Early Space Exploration" exhibit. You can see several artifacts to include an advanced model A7B Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU - the Lunar pressure suit ensemble) which was used on the last three Apollo Lunar missions. Though the nametag reads "Armstrong," it seems unlikely Neil wore this gear, as he was assigned to a NASA administrative position after his historic Apollo 11 flight, and did not train for follow-up missions.


Where It All Starts

There aren't enough superlatives to describe this modern day Great Pyramid (left). Still quite a sight after three decades are the horizon-dominating Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and adjacent Launch Control Center (LCC). This is the still only place you can put a whole Moon Rocket together standing up! Four huge internal bays can accomodate a couple of booster stacks at the same time. It's lamentable we never got to push the capacity of this impressive infrastructure. The 525 foot tall cube is hard to miss anywhere on Florida's eastern skyline.

Many times you'll see one of the world's largest tracked vehicles, simply named Transporter 1 and 2, sitting outside one of the huge bay doors (right). The Transporter carried the entire Saturn-Apollo booster stack, Mobile Launch Platform, and service tower to the pad balanced atop its flat, self-leveling shoulders. It still does the same for the Space Shuttle, always at a roaring 0.5 to 1.0 miles per hour along the famous gravel Crawlerway.

 

The Holy Grail of Apollo

And here's - the spot where Saturn left for the Moon: Launch Complex 39! The photo is actually Pad B - where only one Lunar mission, Apollo 10, was launched. Pad A was the hot ticket in those days - but the two are essentially identical facilities. And speaking of hot tickets - when you visit, please pay the extra $20 to experience the "KSC Up Close" tour. This ticket gets you "right there," from a look at the Operations and Checkout building where every Moon-bound crew slept, and ate that famous pre-departure breakfast; to the Atlantic shore bunkers where only the monitoring equipment watched, as Apollo headed for the Moon...


Rocket Gardening

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The rocket garden holds a large collection of boosters, real and mock-up. This is the Saturn V's younger brother, the Saturn I-B (SA-209), which powered Apollo unmanned test flights, the Apollo 7 mission, and ferried the SkyLab astronauts to orbit.

 


Solemn Ground

 

The Astronaut Memorial at KSC is indeed a place of honor, but it is also a remarkable piece of engineering. It is made up of a large black obelisk with a constantly illuminated face. When I took these shots it almost appeared the wall was weeping for the Apollo 1 crew.