Friday, February 7, 2020

Day 3697

It was an interesting and very busy day. We got to go inside the Vertical Assembly Building where all the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions were prepared for flight. It is still one of the largest and most impressive buildings in the world and will soon welcome the monster Artemis rockets that will take us back to the moon.

We visited ULA's Atlas Operations Center and got a surprise tour of the building by Tory Bruno, the CEO of Unitel Launch Alliance. We couldn't take pictures but we were able to go behind the scenes and see the Atlas 5 rocket that will take the first Starliner astronauts back to the Space Station. We also visited the astronaut crew quarters and everyone, including myself, wanted a picture coming out the same doors that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins opened on their way to the van that would take them to the Apollo 11 capsule. You've probably seen these doors on TV. Same door, but I didn't have a space suit.

One of the most interesting things about these visits to the Space Center are the stories you hear from old timers that were working at the Cape during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Most of these guys are retired now and frequently volunteer as tour guides. I heard that the original Mercury 7 astronauts shared their spartan Hanger 11 quarters with a bunch of monkeys that were sent into space first. Many of the early space shuttle astronauts didn't realize the importance of exercise and were so weak when they returned to earth that they had to be carried out of the shuttle on stretchers. There are still parking spaces that say "Astronauts Only" but there are no Corvettes anymore. Instead, there are special parking places with chargers for astronauts who have electric cars.

I heard rumors that someone was trying to put together a go-cart race between Tory Bruno, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos. Will this ever happen? Who knows. Both Space X and Blue Origin are building massive new launch facilities though. These guys are all here to stay.

I'm apparently not the only person who enjoys watching rockets. The hotel is filled with people who  are here to watch the Solar Orbiter launch. The hotel manager says every launch is this way. There are groups who call themselves Launch Rats and Space Ambassadors who help people find the best places to view and photograph these events. Even the bars are filled with space folks. It's a whole subculture that I never knew existed before. People are interested in a lot of things in Dallas, but space isn't one of them.

Tomorrow, I'm going to get my press credentials and try to go to the launch pad. We'll see how that goes. Only a limited number of media folks will be allowed to observe the rollout at the pad. If I'm unable to get on the press bus tomorrow, there may be another opportunity on Sunday morning. Our social media group did get to see the launch support building where hundreds of engineers monitor every component on the rocket. It's amazingly complicated to get one of these things off the ground.

I learned that our furnace broke this morning. It's fixed now, but I felt bad that I wasn't there to take care of things. I'm usually in charge of fixing broken stuff around the house. I also learned that Dawn got injured badly at the kennel. She had surgery this morning. I think Janet and I are going to foster her while she is recovering. Basically, it looks like it's been a pretty eventful day everywhere.

Stortz is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day