Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who'd have thUNKK?

So let me tell you about yesterday. Well, actually we have to go back a little over a year to when I was privileged to go to the Kennedy Space Center to watch a shuttle launch from 4 miles away due to the generosity of Unkk, internet and SCA friend and all around groovy dude. Well Unkk kinda dropped off of the internet radar for a while, but a few weeks ago he resurfaced to tell us of a new massively multiplayer online role playing game(MMORPG) called Champions. Like City of Heroes it is a superhero game, but much more customizable. Unfortunately the system requirements blow my ancient devices out of the water so I had to politely decline the invite to join him in the fight against crime. I was, however, thrilled to 'see' him again since, as he is a NASA employee, I have been dying to interview him for Starbase 66. I asked, and he quickly agreed. Then I got the thought that it would be even cooler to interview him at work, and again he agreed. So yesterday I drove across the state and met Unkk for a totally nerdgasmic day.

Our first stop in the park was lunch and we chatted and caught up a bit, then we went to the Rocket Garden. Unkk is a veritable font of information about the space program and its history. Even though I pride myself on my knowledge of such things, he taught me more in twenty minutes about the development of manned rocketry than I learned in twenty years.(and yes, that's me on the actual Apollo gantry)

We wandered the center some more and Unkk regaled me with tales of astronauts, and computers, and the wonders that the space program has brought to the world. Every now and then we'd stop and I'd record some audio for the podcast, and then we'd move on. We tried to watch an IMAX film, but the 3D part was broken, so we decided to skip it and get on the bus. As we rode about Unkk was telling me more about stuff than the drivers were with their memorized routines, for example I knew that the VAB(vehicle assembly building) is 500+ feet tall, but the pilings for it extend 400+ feet down into the ground!

This is the Pegasus, the barge that is used to transport the enormous external fuel tanks for the shuttle.

Our next stop was the area closest to the shuttle launch pads. Here you can see pad A being refurbished for the upcoming Ares program:

And here on pad B is the Discovery awaiting it's August 24th launch date.

Also on display at the launch pad viewing gantry is an actual shuttle main engine.

We then moved on to the main attraction...the mighty Saturn V. The most amazing, and complicated machine ever built by the hand of man. And this rocket is no mock-up. Unkk informed me that this was ready to either be Apollo 21, or a rescue rocket should one of the earlier missions go bad. It sat outside for years before a private company took over the Visitor Center and refurbished it, which included putting this monster in a beautiful, air-conditioned building. The only drawback is that it is impossible to get a good picture of the whole rocket, but it's still impressive as hell.

There is also an actual Lunar Module there:

And the actual Apollo 14 capsule(with a special guest star)

Unfortunately it wasn't all happy times and physics talk. There is an unpleasant, yet beautiful part of the center where the US astronauts that have given their lives in the line of duty are memorialized. Apollo 1:

Challenger and Columbia:

And for all:

Then we went back to the Unkk house where Unkkwife and the two Unkklings graciously treated me to an amazing dinner, and then Unkk bestowed upon me a totally incredible computer that he had been tinkering with so that I might join him in the new game. We finished up the interview, and then I drove home. It was an amazing day, spent with one of the hoopiest froods ever to walk the planet. The interviews will be compiled into a podcast that will go out in a couple of weeks, but I just want to thank Daniel(Unkk's real name) and his family for their incredibly warm hospitality and friendship, not to mention the deliciousness that is Irish Lasagna. This was a day that will definitely go on the highlight reel of my life.

Unkk rocks! :-)


Stinkypaw said...

Love the guest star!! Impressive.
This was a geeky post if I ever read one! ;-)

Alysoun said...

I am green from envy - and I want the recipe for Irish Lasagna :)

flurrious said...

What a fun day! I didn't realize the capsules were so small. Yikes.

Also, this reminded me to go find out what I've been wondering about for a while, which is when Cape Canaveral stopped being called Cape Kennedy, and according to the always reliable Wikipedia, it was ... 1973. Really? I would swear it's only been in the last ten years or so that I've heard people calling it Cape Canaveral again. I am sometimes slow, but not this slow.

MEK said...

Great blog post, thnnks for sharing. The photo's are great. They bring back some fabulous memories. I'd have given a kidney for the guide you had. Can't wait to hear the audio.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the day that they put all that nasa junk in a museum. Perhaps call it the "Museum of human waste" next to a septic system!

All that Buck Rogers' BS never did nothing for this country!

Marius said...

Nice try, Doug. I ain't biting this time. ;-)

celebhith said...

You really do have some amazing friends, Marius! And while I don't know what "hoopiest" means, it sounds incredibly good so let me tell you now that I consider you pretty hoopy as well.

Oh, and I won't mention just how very phallic that Saturn 5 looks. . . ah'm just sayin'!

rosebuckle said...

Oh man, that is so awesome!

Unkk said...

Unkk’s Irish Lasagna.

Lasagna in Unkkhouse isn’t just something your cook, it’s an assembly line process consisting of three main items: Cheese, Noodles, and Sauce

The sauce pot contains

1 1/2 lb. ground sirloin
4 center cut pork chops (I cook it on the grill for a nice smoky flavor)
3 boneless chicken breasts (also cooked on the grill)
4 large Irish Bangers sausage. You can use bratwurst if you’d like, it’s like Italian sausage, but without the licorice flavor you’d get from fennel seeds
Optional: a cup of diced pepperoni
7 c. (64 oz.) thick spaghetti sauce (or more, I always make more)

Cheese bowl contains:
2 c. (15 oz.) Ricotta cheese
4 c. shredded Mozzarella
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Noodle bowl contains:
16 oz. lasagna, slightly cooked (my daughters think it feels icky)
Warm water (to help them keep that fresh icky feeling my daughters enjoy)

2 9x13 baking pans (yup, this recipe makes two, one to eat and one to freeze)

All the sauce goes into a large pot. I prefer a crockpot so I can let it simmer all day
Boil the sausage for 5 minutes or so, drain and cut into 1/3 of an inch round sections
Brown beef in 3-quart saucepan; drain off excess fat. That goes into the sauce pot
Brown the sausage, drain, and it goes into the pot.
Pan fry the pepperoni to get the grease out, drain and it goes to the pot.
Chunk the pork chops and chicken into about ½ inch cubes, and you can guess where that goes.

Pour about 1 cup sauce on bottom of 9x13x2-inch baking pan.
Layer 3 pieces of lasagna over sauce; cover with about 1 1/2 cups sauce.
Spread 1/4 of cheese filling over sauce. Repeat layers of lasagna, sauce and cheese filling.
Top with layer of lasagna and more sauce. Cover with aluminum foil
Repeat for next pan
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle a little more Mozzarella on top; bake about 10 minutes longer. Allow to stand 10 to 15 minutes before cutting or it will be messy.
Remind everyone that the first piece never comes out looking nice.

Bread sticks:
Two tubes of pizza dough (next to the instant biscuits in most stores)
One packet of instant Onion Soup mix
2 tbsp. dried minced garlic (or garlic powder)
2 sticks of butter (best guess)

Put the onion soup and garlic through a spice grinder, blender, or whatever you have to break up the large onion pieces. You can always add two tbsp. onion powder and take out the large onion pieces if you don’t have any way of pulverizing them.
Place the rectangular dough on a flour dusted cutting board.

For garlic sticks, sprinkle the onion/garlic mixture over half the dough, and fold the non sprinkled side over on top.
Cut with a pizza cutter into one inch strips
Place onto a nonstick cookie sheet or one coated with cooking spray, giving each strip a couple of twists to keep it together.

For garlic snails, sprinkle the onion/garlic mixture over all the dough, and roll it back up into a tube.
Cut using a piece of string you slide under the tube into one inch thick circles.
Place onto a nonstick cookie sheet or one coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 until they start to turn toasty brown.
Cool bread down by rubbing with a stick of butter.

Unkk said...


Unkk's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

2 cups Milk
1 3/4 cups Light Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 cups Half & Half
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
4 cups Whipping Cream
one large Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (realy, it has to the the large size)
Or use homemade cookie dough

Scald milk until bubbles form around edge. Remove from heat.
Add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.
Stir in half and half, vanilla, and whipping cream.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes, overnight is better.
Freeze as directed by your ice cream machine's instructions.
Once ice cream has been through the entire ice cream machine process and is now a chilled soft ice cream, add the chocolate chip cookie dough. Just break up the dough as best you can with your hands and drop it in small clusters into the soft ice cream. Try to mix it around to ensure that the cookie dough is evenly distributed throughout the ice cream.
Put the ice cream in the freezer for several hours until hardened.
It's not uncommon for us to leave out 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and replace it with 1/4 cup of caramel sauce, or for us to put in 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.