The bus taking us on the tour
Meeting a peacock while waiting to board the bus
Me in the mission control room
The handbook for the managers on the launch
The Endeavor, a shuttle being worked on in the VAB
The Atlas 5!!
The leftover smoke from the rocket
While most of us were in a post-Thanksgiving food coma last week, OC blogger Paris Starn was at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There, the NASA Mars Atlas 5 was set to launch into space with the rover Curiosity, set to study past and/or present life on the planet.
The day before the big launch, we were taken on a special tour of the manager's mission control room––so cool! This is the room you always see on TV when important decisions on the rocket are being made. We got to sit in the chairs, put on the headsets, and even read the manuals for the operations the next day. We also picked up lots of the lingo you usually hear in the movies and never understand.
Next was the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), where the rockets are assembled. This is the largest one-story building in the world––at 560 feet tall, it's able to hold the volume of three Empire State Buildings! In fact, the room is so big that sometimes clouds form on the ceiling and it rains! After lunch and a movie, we went to see the Atlas 5. It's 196 feet tall and weighs 1.2 million pounds when fueled. Then we all went back to our hotels to rest up for the early launch the next day.
In the morning, we arrived at the viewing center, where some NASA senior administrators talked to us about the launch. Curiosity is the size of a VW Beetle, but ten times bigger than anything they've ever sent to Mars. (This mission has been in the making for six years!) They also introduced astronauts who had been to Space, congressmen and congresswomen. At 10:02 AM, it was finally time for the countdown. It's hard to describe the feeling of watching the rocket take off, but it was beautiful awe-inspiring to know that we were so close to a machine that would travel to another planet in our solar system. The experience was truly breathtaking.