Summer B and Twelve Hours at Kennedy Space Center

Hello again to all my lovely readers!

I apologize for not having written in a while, though I haven’t really had anything interesting to talk about. Now that I have some stuff, commence blog post.

Spending the evening studying up on some circuitry.

Summer B is already well upon us; I’m taking Electrical Engineering this semester. It’s definitely a change from last semester’s math class, but so far I’m enjoying it. The material is very straight forward, and the instructor let us vote not to have a final. Although that means midterms will be weighted a lot more… could be a blessing or a curse, tune in later to find out. The thing I am enjoying about circuitry is that it makes both logical and mathematical sense. When you look at the equations, you can see exactly what they mean and why, just by understanding the way electricity is moving. And I have a good solid circuits foundation from Physics III, for which I am thankful, as most of what we have done up to this point has been review. Boy does time fly though; last week was our first of two midterms and our fifth of ten labs. That means Summer B is half over, and Fall is just around the corner!

I’ve been a lot busier with school this semester than last, which is ironic because it’s a junior-level undergraduate class versus the master’s level class I took last semester. I suppose it’s probably the lab component that’s keeping me busy – an extra 4-6 hours a week, plus writing two reports. As a result I haven’t had as much time to spend in SPRL, but with CEDAR behind me my task for the time being is just reading up on some literature. A good, firm understanding of one’s field is always great, but doesn’t make for good blog content, so I’m afraid that’s really all I have to say about that.

The fourth of July holiday came and went, and I didn’t really do much. I’ve learned to play some new songs on my acoustic guitar, and picked up a copy of Final Fantasy VIII. Per countless recommendations I’ve also started (and nearly finished) watching Game of Thrones. I won’t say anything that could spoil it for those interested in watching, just that it certainly lives up to its hype. I also went down to the Port Orange library yesterday to see a guy from NASA give a presentation on Mars. It was a really cool presentation, and I even slipped him a business card afterwards. I don’t know if I’ll get anything out of it, but I never pass up an opportunity to give my business card to a NASA employee. :)

The Atlas V lifting off! Not a great photo, but you really can’t get anything much better without one of those fancy schmancy cameras that I’m not fortunate enough to own.

Standing underneath the Saturn V at the Apollo center. It is a massive beast of a rocket!

I know that all isn’t very exciting, so now I’ll get to the exciting part: last Friday. It all started with waking up at 5 am and leaving the house with the sun still down. If you know me, you know that that does not happen. In fact, I live by a general rule that if you wake up and the hour is not yet double digits, it’s too early to be waking up. So, you may be wondering what got me on the road at 6 am, and the answer is SPACESHIPS. You may or may not be aware that on Friday there was the largest Atlas V launch to date, which took place around 9 am. We booked it down to Kennedy Space Center and arrived at about 7ish (the sun didn’t come up until we were well down I-95), and then got on a bus to be taken to the Saturn V center at KSC. If you weren’t aware, KSC has bleachers set up there, and it is the closest you can get to the launch publicly (i.e. without sneaking onto secret government property.) After a ten minute delay due to upper-atmospheric winds, the rocket finally went off at 9 am sharp, and boy was it a sight.

One of my pictures next to Atlantis. What a sight it was!

I think we spent half the trip posing in front of cool signs.

That was pretty much the best day ever. After the launch, we spent the day at KSC, and didn’t leave until they closed at 7 pm. And let me tell you, if you’re a space-enthusiast, KSC is even better than Disney World. We saw the new Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit first, and it was AWESOME. So well done. There were some really cool short movies before you even got into the exhibit, with the last one being projected onto a dome so the shuttle footage was all around you. Then the screen lifted up and right in front of you, not more than ten or twenty feet away, is Space Shuttle Atlantis. You could get within nearly an arm’s reach of it – it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The Space Shuttle exhibit is also home to the Shuttle Launch Simulator (which was at KSC before the Atlantis exhibit opened, though I had never had a chance to ride.) That was a really cool experience. They say that astronauts have ridden in it and said it’s as close to a real launch as you can get in a simulator.

Panoramic picture of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Click for the full-sized beauty!

NASA shuttle astronaut and astrophysicist, Dr. Sam Durrance.

Standing next to a full-size lego model of the Mars Spirit/Opportunity rover. Of course they can’t display the real ones because they’re still over on Mars.

Another cool thing at KSC is the Astronaut Encounter, where they have an astronaut come give a presentation and then you can take pictures with him afterwards. He gave a really great speech, and it was cool because, not only was he a shuttle astronaut, but also an astrophysicist. We also watched an IMAX film about the Hubble Telescope, walked around in the future explorers building (they had some cool Mars stuff there), and took tons of pictures all over the park. It was really a twelve hours well-spent. It was dark again by the time I arrived back home, and I collapsed into bed and slept straight through until about noon.

KSC is running a deal on annual passes right now in celebreation of the new shuttle exhibit, and I highly recommend taking advantage. It is only $5 than general admission, and because parking is $10 and the pass gets you free parking, it’s actually cheaper to get the pass than it is to go once at the normal rate! Plus you save 20% on all food and 10% in the gift shop (which is literally the coolest gift shop I have ever been in), and can get guests in for $10 off. It’s only about 45 minutes from campus, and makes for a fantastic trip – so head down there! I plan to go at least two or three more times before my annual pass expires.

That’s all I have to say for now. Another week starts tomorrow, and before long August will be upon us! (I apologize for the photo-heavy post, if you have a slow browser!)


November, 2009

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! It was a different experience not being able to travel home for the break. I definitely missed home but I was able to have a nice dinner here on campus with some of my friends. I’m still not fully adjusted to the weather. It’s almost December and the weather is still above 70°. I know for sure, that I am going to be in a rude awakening when I return to New York. That reminds me, there is less than 2 weeks before winter break and the finishing of my first semester at Embry-Riddle!

Just before break, I finished up a group project in which we had to design an aircraft that would be able to carry a specified satellite payload anywhere in the United States. The payload is based on a previous group project that was completed back in October. I had a great time with that one because we had to design a launch vehicle from the ground up that would be able to place a satellite into a 200 nautical mile orbit.

The only tasks left to do are to finish up my final project for another engineering class. One more report for my communications course, and then study hard for my physics and calculus exams. Then I will be set to take a much needed vacation, home!

Another few exciting events took place within the past two weeks. I witnessed the launch of space shuttle Atlantis (STS-129)! As I stated earlier, I had class during that time, but my physics professor took us outside to view the launch. In my opinion, day launches are more exciting as I am able to view the launch vehicle in my binoculars. I was able to see Atlantis and its three main engines still firing away, well after SRB separation!

I also stated that an Atlas V was slated for liftoff a few days prior to the shuttle launch but it was scrubbed. However, a week later, the launch was rescheduled and liftoff was scheduled for 12:54AM on Monday the 23rd. The launch kept getting pushed back though due to heavy wind shears above the launch pad. The worst part of waiting to see if the launch would even take place within the given launch window was that I had an 8AM class that same morning. Some say you see one launch, you’ve seen them all, but not for me. I get really excited for any launch and I remained hopeful that a liftoff would occur. At precisely 1:51AM, mission managers gave the go for launch and at 1:55AM, the Atlas V soared into deep space! A few of my friends were outside with me who were also anxiously awaiting the launch. I assured them there would be a liftoff and fortunately there was. One of my colleagues was able to snap an awesome time lapse photo of the rocket’s ascent. 60 miles from the launch site and the view never gets old.

It’s been a unique experience thus far. I never imagined being 1,200 miles away from home let alone seeing the numerous launches occur at the Kennedy Space Center. Two years ago, I was instilled with a dream, a dream that one day I can be one of the few who have the chance to embark on the greatest adventure that mankind has ever known. Here I am now, grateful and fortunate to be here in Florida chasing down the journey of my lifetime. The work has been very challenging and I am very proud of what I have accomplished thus far.

See you out there!