Sunday, June 22, 2008

From Miami to Jupiter and Beyond

If you think that Miami is the most out of sight place in America (which, by extension, makes the most out of this world place in the world, which, by extension, makes it the most way out place in the solar system, which, by extension, makes it the most stellar place in the known universe), you’d be wrong. As it turns out, another place just up the road holds that distinction.

North out of Miami, we rocketed up Highway A1A (not to be confused with Highway 1, though they sometimes share the same roadway). We shot through the Boca Raton Nebula…

.. swung through the Coconut Grove Cluster…

.. and finally touched down in Jupiter, FL. After some rest and refueling, we took aim for the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral--the most out of this world site on the planet. Soon enough we were walking in the space where only astronauts dare trod.

Suffice it to say, there is no greater confluence on earth to the glories of funny math, hardcore science and wild adventure. And you get to see it all, at least from a near-distance.

The hangar where the Space Shuttle is readied for launch…

… and get a close-up look at an actual launch pad.

Or, if you prefer, you can fine-tune a retired rocket engine.

Or, if you're not in a working mood, you can inspect the artifacts from The Saturn and Apollo programs, from the very largest…

to the very smallest*…

*actual piece of actual moon rock

… to Skylab and beyond.

Also, there’s a much less talked about phenomena that occurs only at the Kennedy Space Center. The scientific term is Ethay Isneyday Effectway, more commonly known as “The Disney Effect.” Call it what you will, it's all good.

Wait patiently before the blast doors. Keep calm.

Then step through the doors and back in time. You are in the actual (really!) mission control room when Apollo 8 counts down to lift off. Make no mistake, you are there!

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that this brought an unfounded tear of accomplishment to my eye.)

Then thrill to the moon landing of Apollo 11 where The Eagle lands on the hour, before your very eyes!

Strap in to a seat on the Space Shuttle*, hold on tight, and ride the rocket to your place in the cosmos.

*This ride purports to be the most authentic Space Shuttle launch simulation as is possible on earth. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t care. I loved it.

Real astronauts, ever humble, downplay their role in this endeavor. They say that they are little more than high-flying mechanics and construction workers. This is true.

Which means, like any good construction worker, you can make your own fun on the Kennedy Space Center jobsite, too. Why not self guide yourself through a Space Shuttle. It’s not as roomy inside as it looks on the outside, but what work truck really is?

Afterwards, go down to the local watering hole and hang out with some spacey new friends...

... then come back home a little lit up and a bonefide Gemini hero.

Best of all, the adventure continued after we left the Kennedy Space Center. Inspired by my astronaut brethren, I too got the chance to work as a high-flying mechanic.

It's the adventure of a lifetime, my fellow space travellers. The adventure of a lifetime.

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