I was a bit nervous about this (as I am about everything) mainly because space is awesome, and I had mad fears that going to see an actual place where space exploration occurs (or at least, sets off from) would somehow turn out to be the most amazingly dull thing ever; like when you find out Real astronomy involves fourier transforms and what-have-you, and you soil your gingham pinnafore in the realisation that you will never amount to anything, because they only introduced the three-times-table to you last week and that was bad enough.
The drive there was fab, however – we went through areas of natural (I assume) swampland, where the not-broom and not-willow and not-hawthorn and probably-not-holly were joined by something I actually recognise (conifers). There were huge birds soaring overhead like outsize moustaches, who later proved to be turkey vultures, and every pond or overhanging tree had a great white heron, or an American white ibis, or a snowy egret or a cattle egret or possibly a little blue heron – and I sound so knowledgeable right now, eh, thankyou wikipedia. But it got even better! We passed a large lagoon where I am almost sure I saw an alligator’s head sticking up out of the water, and then there was a definite pod of wild dolphins that frolicked alongside us for ages. Woo!
They have a garden of rockets at the Kennedy Space Centre. It is much bigger and more impressive than the couple of ordinance tail-fins I used to grow herbs in outside my back door. They also have a horde of boat-tailed grackles (if I am right) which shrieked like pterosaurs and drowned out everything. I don’t know how the cafe staff retain either their hearing or their sanity. The grackles perched on every anti-grackle measure, just to rub it in.
We went to a talk about what NASA is doing (NASA is still doing stuff! Yay! I kinda lost track when the shuttles were being decommissioned and was certain space was off the agenda forever) but no, they are opening the place up to private space launches and also designing a new generation of stuff, so phew. Well, in light of the fact that the government shut-down came into force today (the what? says the person from across the Atlantic. I missed all that)… maybe not.
Yeah so, turns out the Senate really doesn’t want women’s healthcare to be for definite provided by their employers, so they have vetoed having any money to pay any civil servants apart from the army and airport security? I cannot possibly have this right.
Anyway after that there was a talk by John McBride, a very famous astronaut I have *ahem* never heard of, my bad, but apparently he was up there helping build the International Space Station. And he’s been an astronaut for as long as I’ve been alive! Wow. I suddenly felt so worthless. (Although obviously, if we were all astronauts, we’d have nary a hospital or a coffee shop – and nae coffee beans either).
We had a choice of 3D movies – the Hubble! (voiced by Leonardo di Caprio, shudder) or the International Space Station! (voiced by Tom Cruise, shudder). We picked a random one and lo, it was even more about the International Space Station, which I could probably now draw from memory and also label the order the bits went on; so I have learned something today, if only by accident.
Also I learned how astronauts eat in space; like Homer Simpson eats in space! I was quite appalled. There was this guy who had brought up popcorn – which had popped itself on the way up – and was just grabbing handfuls of it out the bag and bits were twirling off everywhere. Being psychic, he hastily assured me that it was okay – all the bits just drifted up to the vents to be scooped up later. And it wasn’t just him; they were having a celebration party later and people were just chucking Skittles into the air and having at them with their mouths open.
That does not look hygienic, I muttered to the Bossman outside.
Of course it isn’t! he said. Why do you think Mir got shut down? It went foosty!
The Bossman made me try freeze-dried icecream, which is the oddest stuff ever, being warm and honeycomby and just wrong, and then we went to see the retired shuttle Atlantis. There was an awful lot of warm-up to it, with emotional music and stuff, and I had to put me shades back on so no-one can see I am a sucker for emotional music.
Atlantis is kinda covered in padding? It looks knitted!
Anyway, since I lack the words to blather on about the grandeur and size and holy shit, that thing has actually been in space like 33 times (bastard) (and I say this as someone who fears heights and enclosed places and fire and rockets and can’t remember to do simple activities without a massive training regime and who would suck at being in space)…
we will move on to how I dropped a phenomenal amount of money on some meteorites, and then we went out to a steakhouse but it was too posh for us, so we went to another steakhouse with a bargain shop next door, where I bought a shedload of dresses because we left home four whole days ago and thanks to the heat I have nearly run out of clothes. So I am now skint due to frocks and rocks, and I have yet to acquire additional socks.
I would be a rubbish astronaut.
However, even though we went into the steakhouse and it was unlimited refills of all salads and sides and cakes, and there was this very handsome wee chap who greeted us with the words, All this is Yours, I did not throw it all around and attempt to chase it with my mouth open.
NB: Another great side-effect of NASA – they make the most flattering mirrors!