If you’re a regular reader, you know of SpaceCadet Jimmiejoe. He’s the twelve year old who hides behind these 58 year old eyes, demanding to be let out from time to time. Last Wednesday, he’d had enough. We WERE, by GAWD, going to Los Angeles, and we WERE, by GAWD, going to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour. He was accepting no more excuses, no more delays, and no more procrastination. There’s a space ship sitting less than 200 miles away, and we needed to go. How can you argue with logic like that? So, we went. The SpaceCadet surprised me. He didn’t tear up when he saw the Endeavour. I was kind of expecting that, after his reaction to seeing a Saturn V rocket in person.
He’s done it twice, as a matter of fact. This Saturn V is at Kennedy Space Center. It’s not a mock-up, it’s a real, honest-to-goodness, Apollo Moon program Saturn V. There are three of them left, on public display now. SpaceCadet has seen two of them, one at Kennedy, and one at Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston. Jimmiejoe the SpaceCadet gets choked up when he realizes that because of the politics of the early 70’s, five Apollo missions were cancelled. AFTER the hardware had already been built. That’s why we have three actual Moon rockets laying on their sides, on public display. We didn’t go back to the Moon after Apollo 17. We used one Saturn V for Skylab, and one for Apollo-Soyuz. The other three now stand in moot testimony to the dreams we let weak-willed politicians destroy. It makes the SpaceCadet both angry and incredibly sad to even think about it now.
I had expected him to tear up at seeing the Endeavour, but he was remarkably cool about the entire thing. It may be the knowledge that the shuttle before him had a long and storied career, flying into space 25 times. That Saturn V rockets were totems to what could have been, but the Endeavour is a monument to what was.
There’s even an external fuel tank here. This tank, ET 94, was taken out of service after the Shuttle Columbia was lost in January 2003, to investigate the loss of foam insulation during launch. The Columbia was lost when foam struck and damaged the leading edge of one of the wings of the shuttle, allowing super-hot gasses to enter and eventually destroy the craft. Foam was removed from this tank to conduct tests, which meant it was no longer certified for flight. In about 4 years, a new display center will be built, and the Endeavour will be mounted to the tank, two solid rocket boosters (sans fuel, of course!) added, and the entire assembly will stand upright, in launch configuration.
The Endeavour will be housed inside a new building, to protect it from the elements. SpaceCadet has already informed me we WILL be back.
There were other things at the science complex, and we looked around as we waited for our appointed tour time, but the SpaceCadet was only mildly interested. He kept grabbing my phone to check the time, insisting we were NOT going to be late!
A spy plane.
A fighter jet from the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy.
A T-Rex and his buddy. Or his dinner. Not sure which.
He said he only wanted a hug. I wasn’t so sure.
T-Rex and friend.
SpaceCadet Jimmiejoe had a grand time, and didn’t once ask me why we weren’t in a flying car on the way home. It’s like he hadn’t even given it a thought, as he was so wrapped up in seeing a real space ship.
He’s started pestering me to go see a Star-Ship, though. I’m not sure how I’m going to handle that. I’m hoping a trip, someday, to New York, to see the Shuttle Enterprise, will be enough. Or maybe to Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian. I understand the real NCC 1701 is there. You can’t get more star-ship than that.