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! :-)