Kennedy Space Center

 

MAVEN Satellite in the PHSF Cleanroom:

MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN) is the next satellite launching to Mars and designed to investigate the dramatic climatic change the planet has experienced.  Though Mars once held liquid surface water, the dense atmosphere that supported it was lost to space long ago.  MAVEN will look at the area around the planet to observe how quickly the atmosphere is currently being lost to help infer what might have happened in the past.

Built by Lockheed Martin with science operations under the direction of Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado, MAVEN will launch the end of this November and arrive around Mars in September 2014.  Its one-year mission will involve a series of elliptical orbits that will dip into the upper atmosphere and directly sample the gas and ion composition.  The outer solar array panels are angled slightly inward to make the satellite more stable during these operations.

Learn more about MAVEN and see pictures from its launch in my post here on National Geographic’s StarStruck blog.

 

 

Astronaut Crew Quarters Tour:

Located on the top floor of the Operations and Checkout building at Kennedy Space Center, the Astronaut Crew Quarters were first used for Gus Grissom and John Young before the launch of Gemini 3 in 1965.  The floor contains bedrooms for the astronauts and their support crew, a kitchen and dining room to feed them all, conference rooms, a medical clinic, gym and office space, all used in the days leading up to a launch.  The most recognizable area is the Suit-Up Room where astronauts were dressed for launch.

Follow internal links and/or use the provided map to explore these eleven connected panoramas, most showing facilities rarely seen before and totally off-limits to visitors during the active Shuttle Program.

 

 

Crawler Transporter Tour:

The Crawler Transporters carried the 8.2 million pound Mobile Launch Platform and the 2.7 million pound Space Shuttle stack at a speed of 1 mph on the 3.5 mile journey to the launch pads.  Two Crawlers were delivered to Kennedy Space Center in 1965 and have driven a total of 3,400 miles in the years since as part of both the Apollo and Shuttle programs.  They remain the world’s largest self-powered vehicles.  Current upgrades will allow this Crawler, CT-2, to carry NASA’s new SLS rocket to Launch Pad 39B starting in 2017.

Explore four panoramas in this tour: external views from in front and underneath and internal views of the engine room and the driver’s cab, all taken while parked in the VAB during upgrades.

Photo above courtesy of NASA from the roll-out of STS-114.

 

 

Launch Pad 39A Tour:

Built in 1965, Launch Pad 39A has hosted 92 launches to space from the Apollo and Shuttle Programs.  Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins departed from there for the Moon on Apollo 11.   STS-1, the first ever space shuttle flight, launched from 39A, as did the next 23 missions before 39B came online just to the north.  At the end of the program, the last 18 shuttle missions launched from there while 39B transitioned for use with the Ares I rocket and its Constellation Program.

During the Apollo era, 39A and B were “clean pads” meaning that there was very little in the way of permanent structures built above the pad’s surface.  All necessary service structures arrived with the Saturn rockets built into the Mobile Launch Platform.  This shuttle specific pad has a Fixed Service Structure (FSS) and a Rotating Service Structure (RSS) remaining on site that provided all services and protected the shuttle stack before launch.

The above tour includes panoramas from 39A’s surface, it’s highest level (295′), the level where the Astronauts boarded the orbiter and used their last telephone and gravity assisted toilet (195′), the bottom of the SRB Flame Trench and the inside of the “Rubber Room”, a blast room still remaining deep in the pad and accessed from a tunneled slide during the Apollo program in case of a Saturn V’s catastrophic failure.

 

 

Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) Two’s White Room:

The clean rooms that accessed the space shuttle orbiters were known as “white rooms.”  There was one in each of the three OPF’s and on the 195′ level of the two launch pads.  It became tradition for astronauts, shuttle workers and guests to sign the walls in the OPF white rooms.  A few VIPs have been highlighted with links in this panorama.

 

 

Firing Room Four – Launch Control Center:

Starting with the Apollo 4 mission in 1967, all launch operations at KSC have been managed from the Firing Rooms in the LCC.  Responsibility during launches remained there until the spacecraft cleared the tower and the Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston took over.

Firing Room Four was renovated in 2006 to handle the final years of the Space Shuttle Program and is seen here still displaying the signage from STS-135, the last mission of Atlantis.

 

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