The Amaz!ng Meeting 2003

Electric Monk - Kennedy Space Center - Early Spaceflight

On our way out of the Rocket Garden, I decided to go take a look at the nearby building that seemed to house only the conference center. It turned out to also contain a museum dedicated to early US space flight, with some interesting artifacts from the Mercury and Gemini programs. In the museum we encountered a custodian who had been at KSC since he was a young boy in the early '70s. He was a real marvel, and could recite all kinds of information regarding the exhibits, the center, and the missions that he had witnessed.

Mercury capsule
First Unmanned Mercury Capsule Launched 19-DEC-1960

The caption on the exhibit says "First unmanned Mercury spacecraft launched by a Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral, December 19, 1960. This capsule was recovered 236 miles (379 kilometers) down range in the Atlantic Ocean following its sub-orbital flight."

The exhibit behind and to the left of the capsule is a scorched window from the early Mercury program launch control center. Apparently it was on a bunker quite close to the pad.

Gemini capsule
Gemini Capsule Flown by Thomas Stafford and Gene Cernan 3-JUN-1966

I liked being able to get up close to and look all around the exhibits in this museum, particularly the displays of the actual items used to make early space history. On this Gemini capsule, I was surprised by how close the astonauts' backs were to the heat shield during re-entry. That must have been rather unnerving.

Almost all of the exhibits in this museum were encased in plastic, and lit by small, bright lights. This made getting pictures without reflections difficult, but after maneuvering around the Gemini for a while, I got one with just a few highlights.

Early mission control center - left
Mission Control Center for All Mercury Flights and First Gemini Flight - 1961-1965

This picture, and the one below are of the actual equipment, and according to the sign, the actual room from which the Mercury and first Gemini missions were controlled. I'm not sure how this squares with the sign in the Mercury room that said that launch control was in a bunker by the pad. This room isn't anywhere near the Mercury launch pads, but perhaps launch control and flight control were in separate buildings then as they are now.

The sign also claims that a modern digital watch has more computing power than this entire room.

Early mission control center - right
Right Half of Same Control Center

Now it was time for lunch, before our scheduled "Up Close" tour began at 1:20pm. To my metabolism it was still 10am, and I don't usually eat breakfast, so I decided to skip lunch. Charlie just had some "Astronaut Ice Cream" which consisted of ice cream pellets eaten out of a small plastic space helmet. It looked just like he was eating astronaut brains.

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