With Wings As Eagles: Photography/Darkroom/Movie Entries

Rocket Nerd Holy Of Holies

2012 April 05 19:54

One of the big pieces of infrastructure built during the Apollo moon program was the Vehicle Assembly Building. It's the really big building at the Kennedy Space Center where they stacked the rockets for the Apollo missions and also assembled the Space Shuttles for launches.

It's a really huge building, and an giant industrial space, and with things moving around inside occasionally, it's a safety issue as well. With all those issues, before recently it was a VIP-type tour that you had to at least know someone to get to see the inside of. Starting in November, NASA opened the building up to the general public. I drove down to Florida this last weekend to take the tour and see it.

It's pretty cool, and really really huge. I'm posting a few photos here. I took a lot more of the inside. While the experience is neat, the pictures don't really show much because there's no reference or scale.

Here's a photo of the outside of the VAB:

The VAB is on the left, and the two buildings on the right are two of the Orbiter Processin Facilities, where they reforbished the Space Shuttles after every flight. The two tall vertical grey sections on the VAB are the doors that open to let stacked vehicles out. They go most of the height of the building.

Here's a different angle. The next shot is goin to be from fairly close to the building, showing roughly the area that's circled in green on this photo.

This shows the bottoms of the two grey doors on one side of the building. Notice the area between them, circled.

Those tiny openings highlighted in the last shot are three double-width personnel doors. That gives you an idea of the size of the VAB.

Now, the VAB is very very cool for a rocket nerd like me. However, I'd like to recommend the Apollo/Saturn Center at Kennedy Space Center for anyone who's even vaguely interested in space travel. It's a really well-put-together museum out on the NASA property. They have a really impressive collection. Apparently the way it works is that you take one of the bus tours to see the launch pads and stuff, which end at the Apollo Saturn Center. You can then take a bus from there back to the main visitor's center, where the big parking lot is.

The centerpiece of the Apollo Saturn Center is an actual Saturn V rocket, which was the rocket that took the Apollo missions to the moon. The first (bottom) stage of the Saturn V was powered by 5 F-1 engines, each of which developed 1.5 million pounds of thrust. This is a photo of the business end of the Saturn V there:

To give you an idea of scale, here's a man standing just below the engines:

Here are a few goofy road-trip type pictures from the trip down and back. Here's the interstate sign when I-75 splits off south from I-40 west of Knoxville.

I was pretty cranky on the way down, and I really horrid traffic problems. That was apparently the spring break that everyone and their dog was going to Florida. The rest of the pictures were from the way back. Monday, April 2, on I-75 crossing I-10 northbound.

I saw this billboard a few times and managed to snag a photo of it.

I know the intention is that it means "We're Nuts!", but I can't being suspicious that this is a front for were-nuts, as in were-wolves, were-bears. Vegetable Lycanthropes! What insidious monsters would those be!

The interstates splitting on the south side of Atlanta. I'm taking the I-285 bypass to the west. That interstate goes very near Atlanta Hartsfield airport; in fact, the highway goes UNDER one of the runways.

An airliner on very final approach.

This was a very pretty cloudscape just before I turned off of I-75 in Kentucky.

It's so well-defined, it almost looks like a Terry Gilliam animated head-of-God should pop out of and start dispensing commandments.