Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rocket Park


Hey another award! Sweet. I was notified by the Daily Reviewer that I made their Top 100 through the "Rocketry" category... not too shabby for a blog that mentions actual rocketry about once per fiscal quarter, but I'll take it. So if you were the person who threw my URL in the ring, please let me know so I can thank you :)

Top 100 Blogs Award

And having accepted this in the spirit of supporting all aspects of space exploration, I felt compelled to mention rockets again. What better place than Houston's Rocket Park?

Saturn V Rocket
Three (separated) Stages of the Saturn V Rocket

Well, not so much a rocket "park" as a "here's where we had room to park the rockets" on space center real estate. The first time I saw the enormous Saturn V rocket up close, it was outdoors... and had been, for 26 years. Finally, some historian said o hey, this is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built and we hurled 27 guys into space with it, 12 of whom walked on the moon... hmmm, maybe we should preserve it!

Good call. I'm sure that didn't happen as sarcastically as I dramatized, but I'm still grateful the Smithsonian Institution agreed, and made a refurbishment process possible inside a new air-conditioned home. It's a stunning piece of hardware, and it's technical specifications are so utterly mind-blowing -- I just never get tired of seeing it, and I see it all the time now!

Rocket Park
Click to see the entire gallery of Rocket Park,
including the Mercury-Redstone, Little Joe, various
rocket engines and close-ups of the Saturn V stages

I also keep meaning to go see the first Saturn V rocket ever built, near Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Their rocket park also now features a full-scale mockup, pointed skyward so those who missed the moon race can see what it looks like all upright and gleaming, and not half-rotted away by Floridian or Texan humidity.

However, the Saturn V in Texas is reclaiming that patriotic gleam, so if you ever bring the kids to Houston, definitely don't miss this. The stages are separated just as they were outdoors, but now it's possible to walk between them and examine the interstage rings, all the H1, J2 and F1 engines, etc. You really cannot believe how big it is until you are dwarfed before it.

And if I haven't convinced you, please allow the Jedi master. I love this video, it's one of my favorites: