Thursday, May 19, 2016

Kennedy space center

Our 2nd day in Florida we went with Chris to the Kennedy Space Center.  Mom was pretty excited to see this place. She's heard of it ever since she was a little girl and told us all about her memories of when the big advancements in space exploration happened. 

Here is the pavilion set up for the NASA robotic mining competition. They had some bleachers facing the testing pits and we were able to watch a few of the teams do their test runs. We missed MSU's run by a little bit but it wasn't all that eventful anyway so probably better that we didn't witness it. Then we walked over to the building next door where all the teams had work stations and got to see some of the cool designs the schools have come up with.  Chris can correct me if I'm wrong but the basic gist of the competition is to build a robot that could function well on the moon (so can't have air in the tires, must be lightweight enough to send on a rocket in the first place etc...) and that can be driven around remotely to dig really fine moon dust/sand and then travel back across the pit to dump it. Points for collecting the most, bonus points for autonomy, minus points for the vehicles weight, etc... You get 2 actual runs for the competition and then they rank the winners based on points earned. 

The team was trying to fix some lose sensors so Chris was able to walk around with us for the next few hours. We learned a lot. 

Two astronauts sat in this capsule for 2 weeks straight without every stretching their legs!!! Crazy. 

This rover is built with legos. Pretty impressive to these lego-loving kids. 

The Atlantis exhibit was by far my favorite thing. Its crazy to see all the stuff in person and get a sense for HOW BIG it all is. These rocket booster and fuel packs are HUGE!!

We walked around to the top of the building and watched this movie about the history of designing and building the first resuable rocket: the space shuttle.  It was really interesting and then the way you see the ACTUAL space shuttle, the Atlantis, for the first time was really impressive. It is HUGE and just amazing. They had a fun slide that shows the trajectory for the shuttle's landing that the kids went down over and over again. There was also a mini space station suspended in the air to crawl around in. And lots of other things to look at. One really good experience was the launch simulator. You watch another movie about the launch sequence and then you get a turn to sit through a simulation where the room tips up and makes you feel alot of the force and noise and bumping and tilting and everything. Its incredible to realize how quick it is and how fast the shuttle goes. Really really awesome. It was sad to learn that the space shuttle program has been shut down and that we're not doing it anymore. I know that's not news for many of you, but I didn't know or had quickly forgotten or maybe just didn't realize what it meant when I heard it. 

Then Chris had to go back to the team and help with stuff so Mom and I took the kids on the bus tour. We drove around and saw some of the launch sites and storage facilities and other buildings. Miles and Miles of roadways and vast natural swampish lands in between. Then they dropped us off at a separate campus where they had the Saturn V exhibit. We watched another really cool movie and saw the actual headquarters for one of the launches with the rows and rows of computers. Then we exited the theater and there hanging about 5 feet above our heads was the ACTUAL Saturn V rocket. SOOOO HUGE. (seriously... I know I'm being repetitive but its all so massively impressive). 

Grandma treated us to some dip 'n dots ice cream for a pick me up and then we headed back on the bus to meet Chris and head back to the hotel where we walked into an easy crockpot dinner waiting.  The kids (and my) sunburns were making a lot of us kinda irritable for most of the day and Mom had the wonderful chance to witness some awesome tantrums by Gwen and the typical fighting of tired-vacationed children.  We went to bed early.. well the kids and I did... Chris went to put some late night hours in with the team to get ready for their first official run early the next morning.  During evenings like that I wonder if its actually worth it to take the kids on trips like these.  I'm sure they aren't really appreciating the awesome-ness of our experiences and its easy for them to focus on the things they weren't happy about. But I know everyone, even adults struggle with that at times.  Looking back, I'm glad we went but there were definitely some hard times. I know my mom would say that the kids pick up and appreciate more than they share with me so I'll go with that as my final take away. (BTW... sometimes I have imaginary conversations with my mom in my head. I'll think about some problem or Brittney-fail and I kinda can guess what my mom would say back and even hear her voice in my head giving me a nice pep talk.  These imaginary conversations are never as great as the real thing but my mom's calming magic can help me even when she doesn't even do anything.... Does that kind of thing happen for anyone else? I hope I'm not the only crazy one...)

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