Thursday, October 3, 2013


I recently had a business trip to Florida where I was forced to spend three days at Disney World (woe is me). The conference ended on Friday but I planned ahead and spent the weekend in Florida. And on Sunday I visited Kennedy Space Center.

Upon entering the visitor center complex, from the parking lot, the first thing to catch your eye is the Rocket Garden.

Even the name is cool, Rocket Garden. I so want a rocket garden in my yard!

Before you can get to the garden you need to pay. And it ain't cheap. Tickets to the complex are $50. On top of the $10 to park. And while a ticket gets you the standard bus tour, if you want to visit the VAB or Launch Complex 39A or Mission Control or have lunch with an astronaut, well then you need to pay more. I signed up for the Mega Tour, which in addition to the standard tour got me to the VAB and Launch Pad 39A.

But after you buy your ticket you go through the turnstiles and the Rocket Garden is right there before you.

Real live rockets!

Like this Mercury Redstone, the first US manned space ship.

I was nine days shy of nine years old when the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon. And nothing could pull me away form the TV when there was a launch. I couldn't wait for the "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ... Liftoff!" of each mission.

I didn't understand or even know about the politics of the space race. I knew there was a race, and it was US against the USSR.

I just liked the rockets!

Like this Mercury Atlas, the second configuration of the Mercury program, and the rocket that took John Glen into orbit.

The Russians had the lead through most of the early sixties. Their space program shrouded in secrecy, with little known, at least to this then eight year old boy, about their spaceships.

But rockets were rockets!

And I liked them all. Including this Gemini Titan, the first US spaceship that could carry two astronauts at a time. It was this ship that would see the space race lead change hands from the USSR to the US, as its flights included space walks and multi-spacecraft rendezvous.

The largest of the rockets in the garden is lying on its side.

It is the little brother to the moon rocket!

The Saturn 1B. The rocket on display was the backup rocket for the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz missions, on call should something go wrong up there. A rescue rocket. Never used, it now rests, the penultimate rocket in our quest for the moon.

The Saturn V moon rocket is too large for the Rocket Garden, and has a museum all its own at the Space Center.

But there are teasers in the Rocket Garden.

Like this single engine from the Saturn V's first stage. Larger then the space capsules a top of the rockets in the garden.

There are other rockets in the garden. Unmanned workhorses used to launch space probes and satellites up from Earth into our little corner of the universe. But it was the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo rockets that captured my imagination as a kid. And again as a visitor to Kennedy Space Center a couple of weekends ago.

There be Rockets here!