Happy 16th Birthday, Mallory! Due to our family’s tendency to follow OSU to their bowl games, Mallory has had the good fortune to spend her birthday in Houston, San Antonio, Shreveport, San Diego, Dallas, and Phoenix. Now she gets to add Cocoa Beach to that list. Not a bad place to turn 16.
The Union Band is visiting the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cocoa Beach today, so that became our plan as well. We had great intentions to arrive before the band showed up so that we could be in position to embarrass Mallory with some signs and cowbells. As it turned out, we walked to the entrance of the KSC no more than 10 seconds before Mallory walked up. I guess we actually couldn’t have timed it any perfectly. What am I complaining about?
We managed to grab Mallory and Miles for the briefest of moments for a greeting and a picture, and were grateful for that.
The highlight for us at KSC was the bus tour. (It was also the only thing that we were able to squeeze in today.) When we checked in with the hostess, she asked how many were in our party. 7! 10! The correct answer was 8. We are having a time keeping up with the shifting number of people in our family.
We had the world’s best bus driver for the tour, Tom. He used to work at NASA on instrumentation for many years and you could tell he was proud to the bone of what NASA has achieved. He knew every species of bird on the tour, pointed out alligators, and told bad jokes. (You know what that alligator thinks when he sees all of us in this bus? Meals on wheels.)
Here is a sample of Tom’s narration: “Welcome to the Kennedy Space Center. The only place on earth where man has left earth to walk on the moon. Launch pad 39a. Only 12 people have walked on the moon. Only in America. Only at NASA.” I was ready to run through a brick wall for NASA at this point.
Tom had seen all 135 space shuttle launches, had met many of the 12 astronauts who had walked on the moon, and for some reason could recite most of their birthdays. Tom was made to be a NASA tour bus driver.
One of the main things I remember from my last visit here 8 years ago was the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). It is the largest one-story building in the world, and the 6th largest by volume in the world. In fact, it is so enormous, it requires a complex system of ventilators to prevent the occurrence of clouds, and even rain, inside the building.
The bus tour finally ended at the Saturn V facility. Here, they show several videos describing the Apollo system, not to mention a full-size Saturn V rocket. As Tom told us several times, the Saturn V rocket is the most complex and most powerful item ever constructed.
One thing to mention is that the KSC was incredibly busy today. As we were leaving the Saturn V facility around mid-afternoon, an employee told us they were up to 11,000 attendees for the day. The two week period at the end of the year is their busiest time of the year. Lines were so long for every activity, that the only thing we were able to check out. Good for KSC, but bad for us.
We ate lunch at the Moon Rock Café (gotta love it) and ate outside with Scott, Erin and Grandma Mary. We had a great view of several launching pads off in the distance. And the best part was the soundtrack of suspenseful space music that was being pumped into our area. It made for quite the dramatic meal.
One of the great artifacts they display here is the original Apollo 14 space capsule. You can easily see the burn marks along the bottom of the craft. Seeing all of these things firsthand, and seeing the videos here, has Stephanie and I asking ourselves, “Why don’t we own Apollo 13?”
As we left the Saturn V rocket center, the bus pulled up next to several sets of bleachers. The employee assisting us told us the last time those stands were used was when the SpaceX first stage booster flew back to earth and landed vertically on another landing pad. Current events!
When we returned from the tour back to the main visitors center, we considered several of the attractions but the lines were just too long. We wanted to see the IMAX 3D space movie, but didn’t want to spend an hour waiting in line for it.
As we left the KSC, we stopped for pictures at the NASA Christmas Ornament. KSC did a great job of decorating the entire visitor center for Christmas and the holidays. Turning this globe into an ornament is top notch.
We caravan’d to Cocoa Beach, where the Union Band was also going to spend the afternoon. We didn’t see any of them there, and can’t say that we really expected to. The beach wasn’t very busy, but it wasn’t because the water didn’t feel great. Loved splashing around in the ocean.
Once we had our fill of salt water, we ate dinner at a local place called Florida’s Seafood Bar & Grill. Everybody seemed to have a hunger for seafood. This place had great food, and the décor was one of a kind as well. It was well received.
Following dinner, KK rode with us and we visited Ron Jon. Seemed like the sensible thing to do. A two-story surf shop open 24/7, 365 days a year. We bought a few souvenirs, but KK made the best purchase with his new Hawaiian shirt.
During dinner, I received a call from Miles that somebody had found his wallet and turned it in at Disney World. So following our shopping spree at Ron Jon, we headed straight for the Magic Kingdom to fetch it for him. It turned out to be a little more involved than originally thought, but in just one hour, we were able to park, ride the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, explain our situation at Guest Services, receive Miles’ wallet, and ride the ferry back to the parking lot. All for no cost! So thankful that the right person found his wallet and it was returned intact, still with cash inside.
Mallory had a great birthday hanging out with her friends, especially at the beach. On our drive back from Cocoa Beach, she sent me several pictures of her day. I can think of no better way to cap off the day’s activities than with some Mallory birthday pictures. Happy Birthday, Mallory!