Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NASA Stennis


So much to do and only so much time in the car to do posts! Even with a mobile Wifi hot-spot, one still travels through large stretches of mountains or prairies where signals are non-existent. I was trying to do the best I could along the way, but this visit to John C. Stennis Space Center actually happened a few days back. Yes, this is the place where the Saturn V boosters were tested for the vehicles that would take mankind to the moon.

A lesser known but no less strategic part of NASA that everyone should go visit!

John C. Stennis Space Center

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi is home to the second largest NASA center in the United states, as Stennis is second only to Kennedy in terms of land. 50 years ago in 1961, when the center was founded, available forest land in Mississippi was was what partly made the 13,500-acre NASA test site logical and practical. A surrounding 125,000 acres of sturdy trees and swamps provides a fine sound buffer when they fire up their massive rocket engines!

Another convenient attribute was water access, and I got to see the old canal system spidering all through Stennis where they used to move the Saturn V rockets around on barges, because they were far too big for trucks!

A-1 Test Stand
Largest rocket test stand in the world

The amazing scientists and engineers here have just completed 35 years of testing space shuttle engines for LEO missions. High-performance, liquid-fueled engines provide most of the total thrust needed during the shuttles' flights to orbit. All space shuttle main engines had to pass a series of test firings at Stennis prior to being installed in the back of any orbiter.

After taking a bus ride around small portions of the grounds, we went to the onsite museum, called The Stennisphere, near Dr. Wehrner von Braun's old offices. There we were treated to views of space crafts, a shuttle simulator, space suits of famous astronauts, an ISS module, and a fantastic exhibit called "Back To The Future" where they re-created how homes and NASA work spaces looked in the 1960s during the Apollo program.

Apollo 4 Capsule
Miss Lily took Camilla on a thorough
inspection of the Apollo 4 capsule

One of the most interesting plaques I read said that the center has gone through more name changes than any other. When founded in 1961 as a Navy site, it was simply "Test Operations", which changed to "Mississippi Test Facility" in 1965. Not too different. But then in 1974, it was absorbed by NASA and called the "National Space Technology Laboratories". In 1988, it was re-named for US Senator of 41 years, John C. Stennis (D), due to his unwavering support for the national space program, in particular manned spaceflight.

Check out the full photograph album in my Pillownaut Picasa Gallery for all the photos of the day!