I’m a month late in writing this, but things tend to be busy when returning from a week away, followed a few days later by school spring break. Anyway, our good friend David Sollberger at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Launch Service Provider group invited us down to Cape Canaveral for a special occasion that only happens every 5-7 years, a NASA Family day, on April 14th. Over the last two years we have been working with KSC Educational Outreach to design, build and test the custom compressed air rocket launching system shown below. We built the controller and 9 launchers for NASA, and another 3 systems just like it for United Launch Alliance (ULA), one for each of their three main locations. My wife Tanya, our two children Lauren & Sean and my parents joined us on the trip.
It was so cool to walk over to the new Operations building and see this sign just outside the door:
We helped set up the two systems, 9 launchers in all:
How can you beat the 500 foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) as a backdrop?
I love how kids and adults alike built and launched rockets.
Look at the determination!
The VAB is incredibly tall. It was built to assemble the sections of the Saturn V rocket, and could build 4 of them at a time!
We took a bus tour of launch pads 39A and 39B, narrated by a NASA engineer. Pad 39A was used for Apollo moon missions, and is now under a 20 year lease with SpaceX, and is where the first Falcon Heavy launched Feb. 6th. It is also regularly used for Falcon 9 launches. Pad 39B is being refurbished for the 2019 launch of the SLS.
Here was the view of our launching area (lower left) as seen from the 5th floor observation deck of the operations building. Note the space shuttle shaped running trail.
We also had a chance to meet Bob Cabana, who was part of four space shuttle missions from 1990 to 1998. Bob has been the director of the entire Kennedy Space Center complex for the last 10 years.
We found out that Bob and our kids Lauren and Sean all think that the best roller coaster at Universal Studios is the Hulk ride.
Bob was also gracious enough to thank us for helping their educational outreach, and encouraged us to continue getting kids interested in science and space.
He also signed one of his shuttle mission pictures for us.
We then headed over to the Neil Armstrong Operations Building, and saw this space suit in the lobby:
It was really special for my father to see this, as when he was a young engineer not long out of college, he had worked for United Technologies Hamilton Standard working on the Apollo space suits for the lunar landing. He had worked on the mounting of the large backpacks that the astronauts wore during the moon walks.
As one last special walk that not many people get to see, we followed in the footsteps of every manned mission launched from KSC, by starting at the crew quarters, where the astronauts would be held in quarantine for up to two weeks before a launch. We then walked through the hallways, down the old elevator and out the doors to the ramp in all of the famous photos:
We couldn’t resist getting a family picture in the same area. We had to hurry up and leave the grounds by 3:30, as there was a ULA launch scheduled for that evening.
We headed back to our hotel, had some dinner, and walked out to the beach just in time to witness the launch:
Just as the rocket was disappearing into the high clouds nearly two minutes into the launch, we heard the low rumble of the launch, which was about 14 miles away!
It was quite a spectacular way to end a fantastic day.
Thanks again to our good friend David Sollberger, and NASA for inviting our family for this event.