February 27, 2012
If you know me or have read a few of my blogs, you won't be surprised to learn that I took a trip to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., for my birthday last week.
What surprised me about the trip was the brand new facility at the museum housing a Saturn V rocket on its side with a lot of items related to the beginning of the manned space program and lunar landing.
I went to Space Camp at this facility back around 1990. I made two calls that would have destroyed a space shuttle in flight, so thankfully they don't let kids run big rockets.
The amount of new items in this exhibit was amazing. A training simulator for both the Mercury and Gemini programs gives an up-close look at how tight those capsules were. The actual Apollo 16 command capsule was at the end of the exhibit, showing how close the quarters were for a trip to the moon was. Thankfully for John Young, Charlie Duke, Ken Mattingly, there was also a lunar module attached during flight.
The main part of the center provided a nice exhibit on the life of Wernher von Braun, a rocket scientist who worked for the Nazis before defecting to America at the end of World War II. He was one of the key brains behind the rocket program that led to the lunar landing and continues to influence our space program.
The extent to which so much of the space race was involved with acquiring new tools to potentially blow up another country was amazing. Thankfully the biggest impact these rockets had was on useful items like cordless drills and medicine instead of launching nuclear warheads.
The exhibit on von Braun will be at the space center through May, including a 100th birthday celebration on March 23. The Saturn V museum is a permanent part of the center. I would highly recommend taking a trip to Huntsville if you haven't in recent years. For more information, visit http://www.ussrc.com/.
I leave you with a final photo, showing you the kind of trophy I would probably get if I ever hunted.
Michael Buckelew is a digital content coordinator for SCNI, parent company of the Gwinnett Daily Post.