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Atlantis NASASocial Day 1

by Elliott on November 1, 2012

Today was the first day of the Atlantis NASASocial. If you want instant updates, search for #NASASocial and #Atlantis in Twitter or go to the Atlantis NASASocial twitter site.

Last night I got into Orlando at around 9pm local time. I stopped to pick up my bag and rental car and made the drive out to Titusville by around 11pm. I wasn’t quite ready for the time change from Los Angeles and I was also excited to get to Kennedy Space Center so I didn’t get much sleep.

Entrance of Kennedy Space Center where the Atlantis NASASocial team met

Entrance of Kennedy Space Center where the Atlantis NASASocial team met

This morning made it to Kennedy Space Center by around 7:45am. There was a handful of people waiting in the parking lot that were from the NASASocial Atlantis select few. We went to the entrance of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex and had some introductions and got some fun prizes.

NASASocial Introductions to the left

NASASocial Introductions to the left

NASASocial Introductions to the right

NASASocial Introductions to the right

After introductions we went through security and assembled at the rocket garden. When you enter Kennedy Space Center, the first thing you see is the rocket garden. You are immediately struck with an awesome view of a large collection of rockets standing upright and a Saturn V laying down. Everyone in the NASASocial Atlantis group gathered around at the front of the rocket garden to take a group picture.

Atlantis NASASocial group shot (that's me on the far right)

Atlantis NASASocial group shot (that's me on the far right)

We walked across Kennedy Space Center to the northeast end of the lot where the new Atlantis building is under construction. We got an intro about how the building was being built and we also had a celebrity sighting – one of the astronauts from the very first shuttle mission, Bob Crippen, and another astronaut, Jon McBride.

Talking about the new Atlantis building

Talking about the new Atlantis building

Astronauts Bob Crippen and Jon McBride

Astronauts Bob Crippen and Jon McBride

I was one of the lucky few (although it didn’t really matter the order) who was picked to go in the first group to take the hard hat tour of the new building. Each member of our group had to wear a bright yellow vest and a really cool hard hat with a Kennedy Space Center logo. Everyone was wondering how we could sneak one of those out.

Our group with the cool NASA hard hats

Our group with the cool NASA hard hats

We followed our great host, Tim Macy, who walked us around the entire building while describing everything. We saw the huge opening where Atlantis will sit. We also saw some building tiles that are supposed to change color just like the space shuttles would do on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere because of the intense heat.

Room where Atlantis will live

Room where Atlantis will live

Outside of the new Atlantis building

Outside of the new Atlantis building

Tile that changes color just like Atlantis did when it was re-entering earth's atmosphere

Tile that changes color just like Atlantis did when it was re-entering earth's atmosphere

Our tour guide, Tim Macy, showing us where the entrance is going to be

Our tour guide, Tim Macy, showing us where the entrance is going to be

After we finished the hard hat tour, some folks in our group went on the Shuttle Experience ride. The Shuttle Experience is a ride that simulates what it’s like to sit in a space shuttle and be launched into space. The ride tilts around 90 degrees just as an astronaut on the shuttle might do when they’re on the launch pad. The blast off is pretty intense. As you leave the building, there’s information about every space shuttle mission as you walk down a spiral ramp.

Some folks from our hard hat tour at the Shuttle Experience

Some folks from our hard hat tour at the Shuttle Experience

This is what it's all about!

This is what it's all about!

Some future astronauts

Some future astronauts

Current astronuts

Current astronuts

We ate lunch near the rocket garden and then headed over to the bus area to go for a ride to the VAB, or Vehicle Assembly Building, which is humongous. The building is where they prep rockets before they are transported to the launch site. The crawler that transports the rockets goes through the middle of the building. When they prepped the space shuttles, they lifted them over some beams in the building which were easily fifty feet above the ground and onto the crawler.

Our tour bus with fancy custom placard to make us feel special

Our tour bus with fancy custom placard to make us feel special

View as we walked into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

View as we walked into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

One of many motivational banners hanging inside the VAB

One of many motivational banners hanging inside the VAB

Huge crane hanging high in the VAB

Huge crane hanging high in the VAB

We walked further into the building, we got to a point where there was an opening to the side. As we kept walking, that’s when we got our first glance of Atlantis. Atlantis was parked there just waiting to be moved to its final location in the Visitor’s Complex. Everyone took tons of pictures, myself included. The surface of Atlantis is filled with character and scars from its many journeys.

There she is!

There she is!

Me in front of Atlantis

Me in front of Atlantis

Underbelly of Atlantis sitting on top of a golf cart

Underbelly of Atlantis sitting on top of a golf cart

Some character seen in Atlantis

Some character seen in Atlantis

Our group listening to our guide

Our group listening to our guide

We got back into the bus and headed to the press area to be a part of a live NASA TV show. There were many speakers who talked about the programs they were representing, such as Orion whose goal is to send a man to Mars and back.

Cutaway view of SLS inside the VAB

Cutaway view of SLS inside the VAB

Vertical Pano of the VHB

Vertical Pano of the VHB

It was interesting to hear about a new satellite, a replacement for the current LandSat satellite, was going to be sent into space early next year. LandSat provides free data that is used in agriculture as well as many other purposes. The example that was given showed a winery who was using the data to make their water usage more efficient.

After the TV show, we went outside and took pictures at the countdown timer. The countdown timer was huge. I had to be easily more than ten feet tall. We got onto the bus again for a special unexpected tour.

Countdown timer in front of a launch site

Countdown timer in front of a launch site

We drove further down the road from the VAB. The road that we took was adjacent to the path where the crawler takes when it’s transporting rockets to their respective launch sites. We passed by a space shuttle engine. Our unexpected tour was the actual launch site of the space shuttles. The launch site is on a gradual hill. As we looped back, we saw Luke Wilson who may have produced more excitement on the bus than Atlantis. My suggestion for a viral social media event for NASA is #spottheluke.

Space Shuttle launch site

Space Shuttle launch site

Another view of the Space Shuttle Launch site

Another view of the Space Shuttle Launch site

We headed back to the Visitor’s Complex. We walked across the complex to our final event of the day which was a talk by some folks working on Orion. They talked about how they were planning on landing the capsule back on earth as well as their goal of making it to Mars.

Tomorrow is the big day of the Atlantis move. Today the Visitor’s Complex was pretty sparse. They’re expecting huge crowds tomorrow. If you can make it down to Kennedy Space Center, it’s a very inspiring experience.

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