Tag Archives: Kennedy Space Center

NASA Tweet Up STS-133: It’s Awesome, Baby!

I was one of the lucky chosen few who was invited to attend the NASA Tweet Up STS-133. After 26 years of service, this launch is Space Shuttle Discovery’s last flight. And I have finally begun to understand the significance of this when I went to Kennedy Space Center today for Day #1 of the NASA Tweet Up.

Some readers may remember the Top 5’s previous trip to KSC. This was before any cuts were made to the Space Program’s funding, before thousands of people lost their jobs, and optimism over the new rocket program was still in the air.

Today, optimism was very much in the air, but I could not help but taste the bittersweet celebration of those gathered for  the tweet up.  150 space enthusiasts from 38 different countries assembled to experience, learn about, and toast the American Space Program. However, the roads of KSC were much less crowded, and it was apparent there were fewer workers and personnel.  Central Florida is definitely feeling the pain of NASA’s reshuffling.

However, NASA certainly did the tweet up right! From the very first official email and pass accreditation to the uber-cool parking space (right by the VAB) and the air conditioned VIP tent, we were treated first class all the way!

Top 5 editor Bess Auer in front of the VAB as photographed by Chris Gent.

From getting to listen to several NASA “big wigs” and astronauts, and then meeting Jason Goldman (A really big deal at Twitter!), we were given thrill after thrill!

NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier

We were then privy to two incredible demonstrations: 1) ACES Suit (think massive survival suit) and 2) Robonaut 2 (think Robocop in real life!).

Just being around all these space nuts was enough to be thankful I spent the day at KSC.  From NASA Flow Director Stephanie Stilson saying, “The most important thing is for NASA to finish the Space Shuttle the right way until the very end,” to astronaut Ron Garan saying, “Everyone should have the right to dream to go to the stars,” what an inspiring time!  I definitely want to go into space in my lifetime!

Astronaut Bess Auer!

The countdown...

Enjoy this recap video of my incredible day and check out the totally awesome Robonaut 2:


Filed under Education, Fun, Just for Me, Shuttle, Space, Tourist, Uniquely Florida

Real Heroes… Air Force Day!

On Thursday, October 28 the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center is honoring the men and women of the Air Force with several special exhibits and displays, as well as musical performances and exciting live demonstrations:

  • HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter landing in the Rocket Garden
  • A parachute jump by the U.S. Air Force AcademyWings of Blue Demonstration Team
  • A heart-pounding F-15E Strike Eagle flyover
  • Performances by the U.S. Air Force cover band, Max Impact
  • A U.S. Air Force drill team demonstration
  • An Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) display, which includes a bomb suit and bomb-checking robot
  • A display of cars, including the Air Force sponsored NASCAR race car and an A-10 Monster Truck
  • A full-scale F-16 mock-up in Thunderbird colors will also be on display
  • Tops in Blue, the premiere entertainment showcase of the U.S. Air Force, will perform a free concert for the community in the Rocket Garden at 8:00 p.m.

Pretty exciting, huh? So, yeah, this is one of the events that might be worth the drive! Especially if it involves honoring these heroes!

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Filed under General Info, Space

Top 5 in Space (Part II)

When you first arrive at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, one of the most dominant aspects is the Rocket Garden. Here, real rockets tower into the sky, pointing upward as if a constant reminder of the ultimate goal: SPACE.

The massive rockets allow you to see just how large an undertaking the space program was when the US first set its collective mind on reaching the stars. Enjoy this video for a glimpse of the Rocket Garden and then the Early Space Exploration Center.

Next we got an opportunity to eat lunch with an astronaut. I absolutely loved this! First of all, the food was much better than my family would get at home. [Note: I don’t cook.]

Next, the audience was kept small in order to give an intimate feeling as Astronaut Sam Gemar made his rounds, patiently answering questions, shaking hands, and kissing babies. [Okay, he probably didn’t kiss anybody.] 

We shared our table with a family from South Africa who brought their three young boys to KSC.  Gemar spent quite a bit of time with us, sharing his incredible knowledge. Fast fact: 1 in 15 astronauts are killed in the line of duty. So, yeah, they deserve our utmost respect!

Gemar then gave a brief general Q&A session, where the favorite question was whether there are aliens in space.  He explained that he hoped there were, as space is a pretty large place, but as of now we had no aliens on Earth. To which a boy of about four years old loudly exclaimed, “Yes, there are aliens on Earth!” [Note: Could have won $10,000 if I had caught that on video…too funny!]

After lunch, we were greeted by Lesley Llerandi who graciously drove us around the property to see some exciting things up close:

  • The Vehicle Assembly Building–VAB, which is absolutely mammoth!
  • The “crawlerway”…tracks still visible from the last time the Shuttle was brought out
  • Launch Pad #39B, close-up drive by and then from a special viewing place by the beach
  • We also saw Launch Control

Some of these close-up stops are available to the public for a slightly elevated tour price; it’s well worth it!

We ended at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. This was my husband’s favorite stop. It gives you a great review of the historical importance of the early space program, which was nice for my son and nephew to hear. Then you get to see the actual launch control of the first missions before moving on to see a real Saturn V rocket…larger than a football field in length! Whew!

All in all, the Top 5 was so honored to have been shown around Kennedy Space Center. Not only do we recommend it as a “must-do” stop for tourists, but for any locals, if you are like me and have never been before, be sure to do yourself the favor by visiting this Central Florida gem. And, if you have already been , I strongly recommend going to see what’s new.

It’s hard to keep in mind in our magical city, where so much make believe is fantastically brought to life, that Kennedy Space Center is the real deal. It’s our history, our present, and our future!

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Filed under Shuttle, Space, Tourist, Uniquely Florida

The Top 5 in Space!

The Central Florida Top 5 was invited to tour Kennedy Space Center this past weekend, and what a wonderful time! First of all, I am an Orlando native, and I am ashamed to admit I had never been to Kennedy Space Center before, and I suspect I am not alone! [Note: We Floridians tend to become immune to the theme park and attraction advertising, sending our visiting relatives to go without us, nodding our heads because we think we know what is basically there…well, I was wrong about KSC!] It is well worth the short drive down the Bee Line. From the giant rockets and life-size shuttle that greet you, to the interactive exhibits and unique artifacts, KSC is much, much more than I ever realized.

Upon arrival we were greeted by Public Relations Manager @AndreaFarmer, a Twitter friend whose updates I love reading. She graciously showed us around the visitor’s center, instructed us on “must-see” things, and then joined us for the Shuttle Launch Experience. Similar to a theme park ride, this simulator reproduces what it feels like to blast off into space, rumbling seats and all! [Note: 0 to 17,500 mph in a matter of mere seconds!]

The best thing about the simulator, though, is the feeling of weightlessness it miraculously recreates…totally mind blowing! I was joined by my husband @SwimmerJoe as well as my teenage son and nephew. This shuttle ride was their absolute favorite! [Note: The simulator magically transported me back to feeling like a teenager, remembering why I dreamed of becoming an astronaut in the first place.]  [Note 2: This dream was shattered while sitting in Astronomy 101 at the University of Florida where I learned Astronomy is basically the title of a really, really advanced math.] [Note 3: Yeah, I dropped the class after the second week.]

Shuttle Launch Experience Highlights:

  • Ultra-slick welcome by astronauts who have actually “been there, done that”
  • Quick queue for boarding the simulator
  • Realistic countdown from Launch Control
  • Awesome blast off and then that feeling of weightlessness
  • Eerie yet breathtakingly beautiful view of Earth through shuttle bay doors and then again through a giant window in the floor after the ride
  • Individual shuttle mission information
  • Signatures of those astronauts who have actually achieved Mach 25 (17,500 mph!)

Check out the video below for the video of the first part of our trip.

Next we visited a bit of a “soft opening” for the Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted, an interactive exhibit geared toward the two teenagers in tow. An ultra-cool display greeted us in the size of a giant revolving planet, so real it felt like we were standing on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. [Note: I am allowing my inner-geek to show, aren’t I?]

Astronaut Bess (at last!)

The Exploration Space exhibit also had different controls/gadgets for the boys to try as well as a neat social media aspect. We could create a post card and then email to friends and even upload it to Facebook.

<——Here’s Top 5 editor Bess standing on the moon!  [Note: Ain’t I cool?]

Finally the area had a live show where actor “Ken” told us about plans for future space exploration. The only thing that stands in the way of the Constellation Program going forward is funding. [Note: Congress, please support 40,000+ Florida jobs, the state economy, a pioneer spirit, and the survival of the human race!]

 Here’s video of Exploration Space as well as the Hubble Display:

Stay tuned for the second part of our trip…more video and photos coming!


Filed under General Info, Shuttle, Space, Tourist