March 5, 2014 Rocket and Space Center and Beyond …

Writer’s Note

I have heard from a couple folks that they thought our exit for MN was quite harrowing.  I probably made too much of our delay due to air pressure gauges not working.  Motor coaches are just a big vehicle with truck-like systems and a house with house-like systems. Most owners are curious and want to know how things work and what to do when they don’t.  Some things are pretty easy to fix, sometimes you call for help.  There is an owner’s web forum ( (not part of the manufacturer) where people exchange ideas, questions, help and advise.  About 2,700 users and nearly 150,000 posts.  Lots of nice people and help when you need it.  So if I get too technical or too detailed please excuse me, it is just how I describe things.   

Google Blogger

This is one of the clumsiest programs I have ever used.  Inserting pictures is very slow.  Editing text makes no sense so far.  I have to try it in a Google Chrome browser to see if it is any different.  Please have patience. 

Space Camp

The Rocket and Space Center is pretty cool.  I was there in the early 70’s.  I was working on a NASA project to write simulation software for the recovery of the solid rocket boosters.  I have never actually seen one, even then.  And here they are!

There was a Saturn 5 rocket laying on its side, out doors.  Today there is entire building to house it and many more exhibits.

Here is the business end of the Saturn 5. It is about 35 ft across.  The five engines burn 12.5 tons of fuel every second!  The Saturn V rocket was about 140 ft tall.

There are three stages.  At the top of the third stage the Apollo capsule and the lunar lander were pushed into space and on towards the Moon.

The entire rocket was controlled by one of the most advanced computers of the day.  Once the rocket was released this computer controlled the engines, the trajectory, the stage separations, the orbital insertion and the push to the moon.

The display said that a stack of these computers about 2 miles high would be needed to have the computing power of a typical home computer of today.  Another way of looking at it is that a typical smart phone today has more than 100,000 times the computing power of what seemed like and amazing machine.

It is hard to get a sense of just how big this thing is. The Rocket Center is at the Army Redstone Arsenal. A lot of rocket testing was done here. The Saturn v engines were tested here before the first rocket launch. The test was so loud that it could be heard 90 miles away. 
One of the Space Shuttles was there.  Not one that ever flew in space but it was just like the real thing.  The main fuel tank and the solid rocket boosters were real ones as well.

It was a great place to stop and visit.  And I got to see a real Solid Rocket Booster (SRB).  By the way the SRB with parachutes attached and open was taller than the IDS building.  

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
After leaving the Rocket and Space Center we drove down to Auburn, AL (go Tigers) to a Camp Wal-Mart.  We walked laps, got some milk and fruit and walked some more.  About 4:30 in the morning something outside was making a lot of noise.  It sounded like a giant sander.  We think it was some sort of vacuum cleaner for the parking lot.
We drove about 14 miles to the Tuskegee Airmen NHS.  This is located at the Moton airfield which was built to train pilots, air crews and ground crews.  Segregation and discrimination were the way the Army Air Force worked at the time and many in the Army refused to give African Americans a chance.  Well, these Airmen proved to be a strong force during WWII in Africa, Italy, bomber support and all the way to Berlin.  More than 16,000 were trained as pilots, air crew and ground crew personnel.  
The exhibits we housed in the two original hangers.  The rigors of training for pilots, mechanics, ground crew and all the other support people looked hard.  Typical pilot training was more than 9 months, longer than the life expectancy in combat.

Pilots learned to fly in Stearman biplanes then went on to more advanced training aircraft and finally into fighter training at bases all over the US.  Some split off to become bombardiers or navigators.   

By 1944 the RedTails were flying P-51s.  It wasn’t easy for them to convince the army that they needed better airplanes to fly the long range bomber fighter cover missions they were being assigned.  Eventually they got P-51s and provided some extraordinary service. 

After a really worthwhile visit were headed off toward Florida.  Our arrival in the next post
Roger and Susan

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