Myself and my wife took the drive from Clearwater across Florida to the Kennedy Space Center, and we were very glad we did. It was something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I have lived in Florida for a few months now, and wanted to wait to go until I could combine the tour with a launch. As things turned out, I am moving soon, so we decided just to go. And what an interesting trip it was. From the launch pads to the exhibits to the IMAX film to the Rocket Garden to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, I loved it all.
But alas, I must choose a favorite. That goes to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. What is the earliest thing you remember in your life? In mine, it is as a small child out in the Mojave Desert in California. my father was working on a hotel construction site and we were in a small trailer near Leuhman Ridge, where the Rocketdyne engines used for the Saturn V were fired up for full power tests. I remember the very earth shaking and the entire horizon toward the west glowing with fire.
I remember running to the window with eyes wide open, straining against the glass to see what was happening. WOW! most closely explains the wonder I felt. I was less than three years old. I remember later, watching the moon landing in 1969 with most of the rest of the World. And like many, I looked forward to the dream of further exploration. The reenactment of the launch of Apollo 8 from the former firing room at Kennedy Space Center brought it all back for me. Looking at the rocket, the lunar lander, all of it was wonderful.
Also on the tour was a walk through the assembly areas for the International Space Station, which was very interesting. The Rocket Garden is an exhibit of actual rockets from the past. The IMAX film presentation Magnificent Desolation, was a very informative account of the moon experiences. The Astronaut Hall of fame tells the story of the brave souls who strap in atop a rocket and go for it, in the name of exploration.
I left with a rekindled sense of wonder, and a feeling of melancholy. I loved everything, yet I could not help but think that there should be more. Not more about the space flights taken, more about the ones we should have completed. I love the photos and the science the robots we have sent out have beamed back to us. What I want to see is people going to the planets. The International Space Station is good, and necessary for us going out to space. But it has been too long since people stepped on the ground of another place, far away from us.
Do you remember the excitement of the space race, if you are old enough? If you are not, try to imagine an undertaking that united rather than divided. When was the last time we had one of those? And there are some that will moan about the cost, in spite of the plethora of benefits provided by the space program. I say those are not the best reason, the best reason to be in space is because it is there. And we belong there too. I disagree with almost everything that President Bush has proposed, except his plan to go to Mars. It could unite and inspire all of us.
So go to the Space Center, and marvel at what has been accomplished. And dream of what will come. As I looked at the massive gantry at a launch pad, I told myself I would return to see a launch. Perhaps, even one to the stars.