I just returned from an interesting business trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida for a meeting of the Aerospace Industries Association. In addition to the useful gatherings with various folks involved in building airplanes and space vehicles, I got the chance to get an up-close look at the current status of the US space program.
During dinner Wednesday evening, we had a retired Space Shuttle astronaut as a guest speaker, sharing his experiences from three shuttle missions to space. To cap things off, at the conclusion of his speech, everyone adjourned to the beach outside the hotel to watch a night-time rocket launch from Cape Canaveral… You can see the photo at the top left below (I apologize for the quality of the photos. Since I didn’t have my camera, I had to use my Treo 650 for the photos).
Thursday afternoon, I was able to participate in a VIP tour at Cape Canaveral (Most people don’t know that the Cape is a base managed by the Air Force while the Kennedy Space Center is a separate campus managed by NASA). As you can see from the photos below, we went into the midst of the Boeing and Lockheed facilities where they build and launch the rockets. The photo at the top right is the actual Delta rocket launch pad that was used the night before. The other two photos show close-ups of the build-up area for the Atlas rocket.
All and all, it was a pretty comprehensive experience with the space program in a very short period of time.