For the first time in more than 30 years, NASA is allowing Kennedy Space Center visitors inside the Launch Control Center – where NASA directors and engineers supervised all of the 152 launches including the space shuttle and Apollo programs.
The KSC Up-Close: Launch Control Center (LCC) Tour, the second in Kennedy Space Center’s special 50th anniversary series of rare-access tours, takes visitors inside Firing Room 4, one of the LCC’s four firing rooms and the one from which all 21 shuttle launches since 2006 were controlled.
Inside Firing Room 4, visitors will pass by the computer consoles at which engineers monitored the computerized launch control system’s thousands of system checks every minute leading up to launch. They’ll see the main launch countdown clock and many large video monitors on the walls, and enter the “bubble room,” with its wall of interior windows through which the Kennedy Space Center management team viewed all of the proceedings below.
A Rare Opportunity
As with the Vehicle Assembly Building, visitors have not had access to the LCC since the late 1970s, during the period after the Apollo and Skylab programs ended and before the first space shuttle launch in 1981.
The LCC will continue to operate in guiding the next generation of rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center for NASA and potentially for commercial space programs. Future launches of SpaceX, whose recent launch from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station resulted in the first mission by a commercial company to travel to and dock with the International Space Station, could take place from Kennedy Space Center beginning in 2013.
The LCC Tour is led by a trained space expert, giving visitors an insider’s view of the space program from launch preparation to liftoff. The tour also includes drive-by views of Launch Pad 39 and culminates at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where visitors can resume the regular tour.
Learn more and buy tickets – KSC Up-Close: The Launch Control Center Tour
Recently, SpaceX “announced it has assembled a team of independent experts to help the company create a safe spacecraft for NASA astronauts.”
And, one of them, Edward Lu, is on Google+:
“I’m looking forward to peeking under the hood of the SpaceX Dragon, and helping them successfully launch humans into orbit!”
More on the company’s initiatives:
The company is already building its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and has a $1.6-billion contract to do just that for NASA.
SpaceX plans to send its unmanned Dragon capsule to dock with the International Space Station on April 30 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in a demonstration flight for NASA. If successful, SpaceX would be the first private company to accomplish the feat.
Now that the space shuttle is retired, SpaceX wants in on the potentially multibillion-dollar job of ferrying astronauts to and from the station. To do that, SpaceX needs to make sure its capsule — which is built to fit up to seven people – is safe.
The independent “safety advisory panel” is composed of leading human spaceflight safety experts:
- Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut, former International Space Station commander.
- G. Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA Ames Research Center, Stanford University professor of aeronautics and astronautics, sole NASA representative on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
- Dr. Richard T. Jennings, former chief of medicine for NASA Johnson Space Center, University of Texas Medical Branch professor at the Aerospace Medicine Center.
- Capt. Mark Kelly, former NASA astronaut, former Space Shuttle commander, retired Navy captain.
- Edward Lu, former NASA astronaut.
via LA Times
More about SpaceX, including their manifesto: “transparency, low prices, and worldwide dominance for the future of space travel.”
// Photos via SpaceX Updates