By Charlie Nielsen, Brevard Center, First-Year Student
On Thursday, November 7, I went to Kennedy Space Center for their Disability Mentoring Day. I had an unforgettable day. The day started off with meeting my mentor. His name was Eli and he designs facilities for the Kennedy Space Center. I also met Gabe who helped coordinate the event. He drove us around in his 1970 convertible Shelby Torino. He had the top down and it was a beautiful day outside. That was a lot of fun.
The first place we went to was a maintenance yard that NASA has for the locomotives and rail cars it uses to transport smaller rockets or the solid rocket boosters for the shuttle around the center. We took a tour of one of the locomotives. It had been recently painted with a new paint scheme. The locomotive had been with NASA since the 1960s.
The next place we went was to the pad that the shuttle Atlantis had been sitting on as it was prepared for launch. However, the badge I had would not allow me up to the pad. So instead we went to Pad B where they had launched the Ares 1X. The launch tower just soars above your head. It is so much larger than one imagines.
After we left Pad B, we went to get my badge refitted so that I could get onto Pad A. It did not take any time at all to fix the problem. Once that was fixed, we went to the LCC or Launch Control Center. I saw the actual computer stations where they sit at while they prepare the shuttles and during the first moments of liftoff before handing it over to Houston. That was pretty interesting to see.
After the LCC, we had lunch at one of the cafeterias and then we went to look at one of the crawlers. The crawler transports the shuttle, rocket boosters and launch platform out to the launch pad. The thing was HUGE! The vehicle weighs around six million pounds! Each shoe for its eight caterpillar treads weighs one ton alone. We also got to go inside of it. We had to walk under the vehicle to get to the stairway that would take us into the vehicle. While I was under it, I had a moment where I thought I was inside a building. Far above my head there were air handlers and air ducts for its motors and crew. The space I was walking under was so large. We went up the stairs and saw the two engine rooms, one of two control rooms and one of the two cabs they steer the crawler from. In the two engine rooms there are four engines in total. Two are eight cylinders and are used to generate AC power for the crawler and the shuttle while it is onboard. The other two engines are eighteen cylinders and are used to generate DC power to run the motors that move the crawler.
After we saw the crawler we went out to Pad A, the one with the shuttle Atlantis sitting on it. This time we had no trouble getting out onto the launch pad. It was absolutely incredible to be that close to the shuttle. The shuttle really is so much larger than one imagines. It just towers above you and your mind cannot grasp that this massive object not only gets off the ground but flies all the way up to space. It is mind boggling. It was an unforgettable day.