The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another day in space

[That small building?  Four shuttle launch assemblies could fit in that small building …]

Our second day at the Kennedy Space Center.

Today was the Cape Canaveral: Then and Now, a tour covering the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (aka Patrick Air Force Base). The Kenney Space Center is where all manned rockets are launched, starting with the Apollo Mission; Cape Canaveral, however, is where all the unmanned rockets are launched (with the exception of the Mercury and Gemini Missions, and Apollos 1 & 7).

Visiting SLC-5/6, where Alan Shepard, the first American shot into space, Bunny and I were struck at how primitive the computers where at the time. Very primitive.

[And the watch probably keeps better time too!]

We also learned that the technicians at SLC-5/6 were reluctant to actually, you know, push the button until Alan Shepard complained: “Why don't you fix your little problem and light this candle?”

[“Push the damn button already!”]

Unlike most of the rockets until then, Shepard's Mercury Redstone rocket didn't explode, and he rocketed into the history books.

[Dig the highly intuitive interface on the computers back then]
[With programs stored on high tech mylar strips]
[With the prices the government was paying, they got dedicated tech support]
[It takes this large cabinet to control a missile]
[Looks easy to repair though]
[WYSIWYG printers too!]
[Gives a whole new meaning to the term “hands on programming”]
[This is an actual program!]

With this level of technology, it's amazing we didn't lose more astronauts.

And speaking of, there isn't much left of SLC-34, the launch pad of Apollo 1.

[In memoriam: Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee]

It's not used much anymore as you can see (also, had Gus Grissom not died in that horrible fire, he might have very well been the one to say “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”).


I forgot to mention yesterday that we had seen the IMAX film Space Station 3D. The 3D effects (done using polarized lenses and not the red/blue lenses one normally associates with 3D films) weren't that great, but that may have been due to improper polarization of the “3D glasses” I was using, but other than that, the film was an interesting look into the International Space Station. I was amazed at how messy it looked, what with wires and cables just strewn about haphazardly. It reminded me of some server rooms I've seen (in a subsequent conversation with Wlofie, this may be intentional, partially as things like wire wraps, wire guides and paneling add weight, which adds to launch costs (something like $20,000/pound)—also, when there's an emergency in space, you don't want to be fumbling around removing panels or wire wraps when every second counts).

So, today, after the tour, we saw the other IMAX film currently showing, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D. This time the polarization was better and the 3D effects were less annoying. And I enjoyed this film as well. The computer-generated scenes on the moon were incredible and it really gave one the feeling of actually being there.

Afterwards, we hit the giftstore. I succumbed to the pressure and bought two books (The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must and Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization) and a freeze dried ice cream cookie (more on that in a later post).

After that, we finally left the Kennedy Space Center for home.

Obligatory Picture

[It's a study in contrasts—digital camera contrasts]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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