The Amaz!ng Meeting 2003

Electric Monk - Kennedy Space Center - Shuttle Explorer

When we got off the bus, we headed straight for the Space Shuttle exhibit, and ran into a dead end. So, we consulted our maps, and found the proper route.

Shuttle Explorer
Shuttle Mock-Up, Explorer

The Shuttle's name was Explorer but it was pretty clear that it was not going anywhere. The signs around it were at pains to point out that the tiles were only simulated. I could believe that. Aside from the expense, the real tile material is surprisingly brittle. On the tour, our guide passed around a sample of the tile material in a plastic bag. Pieces flaked off of it continually, even when handling it gently. I had previously pictured the tiles as being fairly tough, but this little block was barely going to make it once around the bus. I only wonder if this sample was before a processing step that made it more durable. I do not remember anything being said about that, though.

Payload bay
Inside the Payload Bay

What was most surprising was how small the Shuttle was compared to our expectations from watching it on NASA TV, particularly in regard to the payload bay. I would say that it is about the same size as a standard shipping cargo container.

Shuttle's Mid-Deck: Storage Compatments and Crew Seats

The mid-deck looked incomplete to me, probably becuase the section with the hatch between it and the flight deck, the airlock to the payload bay, and the robotic arm control station were replaced in this mock-up with the space for visitors to walk through.

Flight deck
Shuttle's Flight Deck

Next to the shuttle was a full-sized model of the external tank with SRBs. A sign pointed out that the orange color of the external tank was the natural color of the insulating foam used on it. This makes sense in light of the $10,000 cost per extra pound to launch into orbit.

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