It occurred to me this afternoon, that I had not written about my trip to Florida yet. So, I will take some time out here to do so. Every Summer, I take a trip to somewhere…just to get out of Denton, Texas (a little north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess) for a short while. Tow summers ago, it was a trip to Colorado – right at the height of the wildfires there. That was a wild trip to say the least. Last year, was a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana – with a stop in South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore. This year, the choice was Orlando, Florida – with an emphasis on four days in the many Disney Theme Parks there – with a two single-day side-trips to Cape Canaveral.
I was not overly thrilled with the Disney aspect of the trip. Large crowds of people make me nervous. The four days in the various theme parks certainly emphasized that for me. And while the Cinderella Castle was certainly a beautiful site to see — I found myself enjoying the very first park we went to more than the others – Animal Kingdom. First off, there was plenty of shade. There were trees everywhere – which made VERY happy. There was a strong emphasis on conservation of wild places, and many other excellent explanations on why it is important to de-emphasis mankind’s footprint on the environment. And all of it was geared to small children. Of course, all of this I discussed in an earlier post describing my time in Disney during the Summer Solstice. Its the side trip I wanted to focus on here. The trip to Cape Canaveral, and encountering the Shuttle Atlantis in its final resting place as a static display.
The various buildings that make up the displays at the Visitor’s Complex are all quite interesting. Well, maybe all of them except the Angry Birds: Space exhibit. Then again, it wasn’t something geared to someone of my age. Standing outside the massive building that houses the Shuttle is a mock-up of the booster rockets that the Shuttle gets strapped to. To enter the building, you walk under this display and into the front doors, where you start your travel up a series of ramps to an entry room, where you watch a video about Atlantis. And then, the doors open dramatically, and you are staring right at the Shuttle’s nose. As someone who champions the ideals of NASA, it was a very emotional moment for me. I seriously wiped a few tears away as I snapped my first photos of a real Space Shuttle. Mounted all around the shuttle are a lot of other displays, such as mock-ups of the consoles onboard, and a couple of astronaut spacesuits depicting a space walk above your heads. The amount of information and stuff to see is seriously overwhelming.
In the other buildings are a few displays of various parts of the United States
Space Program, as well as a very well-stocked tourist shop. There was even an astronaut there signing copies of her book…I did not get a book to sign, but managed to insert myself into a conversation she had with another person there concerning B-52 bombers. Aside from the Shuttle, the next heart-rending display that was there is a huge outdoor mirror that is in a secluded part of the complex – away from everything else. Its called the Space Mirror Memorial, and you can read more about it at the link. Its a very sobering moment to have at the site.
I took two of the tours – one that showcased the launch control facility – which was being refitted for commercial use by the folks of Dragon-X and several other companies. The other tour was of the space-launch pads, and we were taken past a Crawler that was used to transport Shuttles from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pads. It was quite an impressive sight.
Do I recommend the trip there? Whole-heartedly I do. Disney was nice. Canaveral was amazing. If you are not a Space Geek like me, your experience may be completely different. I am still in awe of what determination, dedication, guts, and a huge chunk of Awen can do.