This blog is Part 1 of a 3-part blog on NASA and Kennedy Space Center from my road trip down south.
Part of this epic road trip was about reliving things from my past through now adult eyes and a more educated mind. It was about getting back to the things that made me who I am and finding happiness again. My sister and I while growing up, had the good fortune to have parents that were financially able to take us on vacations even though they were not incredibly extravagant often. My mom and dad valued these trips as a way of both connecting with us as a family by sharing travel experiences together while also knowing that it would help us learn more about the world and see other places that others may not and we may never see again. These trips had a great effect on my life from an early age and planted the seeds of travel and adventure in my mind and heart. It is something I think is important for every family even if it is not out of the state or out of the country. I have talked about my love for great road trips on this blog before.
On one of our 2 trips to Florida when I was younger we went to Kennedy Space Center, I was 8 at the time. Then I loved everything space and wanted to be an astronaut. Those aspirations died a few years later when I developed a hatred of math BUT my love of space and NASA has continued as an adult. I remember how big everything seemed how massive the rockets in the rocket garden looked. I remember going on a tour and seeing from great distances the building known as the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the 2 launch pads (39A and 39B) used to launch the space shuttles into space which was also the site where the Apollo rockets were launched from. As a kid, the men and women who went into space and walked on the moon were my hero’s NOT movie stars and athletes. Anyone can be a star athlete if they want to be and are willing to put in the effort and training but few ever go to space. They are the elite and on the level of the explorers, scientists and thinkers such as Sir Edmond Hillary, DaVinci and Kepler forget about Kobe, Jordan and Lebron.
When I was younger and at KSC, I thought everything was cool and knew something’s about what I was seeing such as the Apollo, Mercury and Gemini Programs, I knew about them not the details. I was enamored with everything huge and just being there blew my mind. At that point, in time, I was not able to truly understand the significance of what I was seeing and some of the exhibits I ignored or just did not get. Since then I learned the history and science of some the things I saw back then, the facts and the stories. This time around I think I damn near read every word written on everything. On this trip, I learned even more than what I already knew. As well as experience things, I was not able too before or did not care to.
I was in the 1st grade when the Challenger exploded I watched a video in class that my first grade teacher took (with VHS) while she was there on vacation. I was an adult when the Columbia exploded over Texas and both tragedies hit me hard and stuck with me. It made me appreciate the danger of space exploration even though I did not completely understand it at 8 years old. Seeing those memorials and hearing the stories about them this time around were more emotional than I thought it would be. I am old enough, smart enough and wise enough to grasp the sacrifice those men and women made.
It should have made my entire generation understand the dangers of space and appreciate what the astronauts do; however mundane and un-exciting it may seem. For my parents Apollo 1 represented those dangers. That was a mission in which three great men died in capsule on training exercise at KSC (one of who is named Roger B Chafee and is from my hometown). Then also, Apollo 13 a mission that Tom Hanks made a movie about that I think opened some eyes including my own. For that generation though with the deaths and narrow escapes it did not stop them and they pushed forward with space and the future. For mine though it sadly scared the hell out of many and caused the end of the Shuttle Program something I firmly believe was vastly underused.
Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Neil Armstrong was the first man to step on it and most people from my generation and younger ones don’t realize the only reason we were able to land on the moon was because of what they learned, practiced and tested on Apollo missions 1-10. Those missions were a learning process that took time, planning and courage. They were not always exciting, but it had to be done. Every mission was a step closer to the ultimate goal.
The things I saw, touched, heard and read this time around at KSC as a grown up which made the entirety of the US Space program possible, the doors it opened and the discoveries made that we take for granted everyday blew my mind. The people who died while trying to get into or home from space made things like cell phones, medicine, surgeries, safer flying airplanes and thousands and thousands of others things we use every day possible. Something I will link to on the next part of this blog. One old man there, a retired NASA worker who was with his grand kids on our tour told me while we had a cigarette that, “Innovation, and adventure don’t happen by chance young man. It happens by people having the courage to do really scary shit and keep doing really scary shit no matter how scary it is”. After talking to him for a bit, he was part of the crew who put the shuttles together before flights in VAB in the 1990’s and was a really great guy.
This mini road trip in May was made possible by my mom just as the first trip there was when I was 8 years old. It was her idea to go there together while I was in Florida on vacation during my road trip so we could relive something we did in OUR youths now as adults and equals with a mutual interest. It was a great learning experience once again and an amazing bonding experience for my mom and I. It was this or Key West for 3 days and I am glad we took this trip to Kennedy Space Center together. It is another one of those trips we took which I will always remember as I get older and older.