Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A cute story about Simon

So the shuttle has launched and it is time to go home. We catch an elevator to go back to our bus and there happens to be an astronaut riding down with us. We can tell he is an astronaut because he is wearing that cool blue suit they all wear.

Simon gets a glimpse of him and asks him why he isn't on the shuttle. With a straight face, the guy says "It did? I must have been in the bathroom, did they call my name?" My gullible Simon explains that he missed it, it already left.

Cute story about Quinn

Our last day on the beach was very nice. We weren't in a hurry and we really enjoyed ourselves. We arrived on the beach at about 10 am to find the tide pretty high still. So we set up our chairs just outside the tide's reach. Of course by the middle of the afternoon, the tide had gone out quite a bit so now our chairs are pretty far from the water's edge.

At one point, Quinn came to us and told us he had to pee. Instead of dragging him back to the hotel, we told him to just go out and pee in the ocean. We remind him that he should go in far enough that the water would wash his pee away. So off he trots towards the water, and back to our books we turn. In a few moments, Roy says "Hey Jen, check out Quinn". He had walked just to the edge of the water, ankle deep, and dropped his pants. There he stood, using the Atlantic ocean as his personal urinal, and me without a camera.

Launch is still a go!!!

OK, this post is all about NASA! It all started with a jam-packed day of tours. We were picked up at the hotel by a tour bus, bigger than any bus my kids have been on. It had a potty....although broken. We had the best tour guide, a guy named Tom. He is an engineer for NASA and was full of great information. In fact his nickname is the The Gee-Wizz man because every fact he gives you, you want to say "Gee-Wizz!" As we approached The Kennedy Space Center, this building filled the windows of the bus. It is larger than life! The is the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). It is the shuttle's last stop before being rolled out to the launch pad. To put it in perspective, a bus could fit in between the stripes of the flag.
Unfortunately, the kids were too young to go inside some of the buildings. Our first stop was the location they use to work on parts for the Space Station. We caught a few small glimpses of stuff through an observation window. The next stop was the building they use to repair the shuttle after it returns from a launch. This was very cool! Tom was so kind to let both Roy & I have a chance to go inside. He let Roy go in first and then came back to the bus and let us swap 1/2 way through the tour. This way, one of us was with the kids at all times. The picture above is of the Shuttle Atlantis. We stood right under it and could have touched it. Guys with guns may have come after us if we had tried though. It was very intersting to see all the heat tiles on the under side of the shuttle. There are over 24,000 of these tiles (approximately 5"x5") on the whole shuttle.
From here we saw the VAB building (mentioned earlier) but the kids couldnt' go in to that either. Bummer! After that we headed to the launch pad. Below is a picture of the kids.

Funny, at this time we thought the orbiter (that would be the cool thing the astronauts fly in) was on the other side of the fuel tank you can see in the back of this picture. We kept trying to walk as far as we could to get a glimpse on the other side. I started to get worried that we wouldn't see the orbiter. Because after all, that is the cool part, as far as the kids are concerned.

Once we finally saw the whole shuttle, we realized that the orbiter was just covered up by all that "stuff" in front of it. I think they were loading up the bay with a toilet for the space center. If you recall pictures of the orbiter, the bay doors open up on the top. This is where they store all the cool stuff they are taking with them. This structure rotates outward, away from the orbiter when it is time to launch.

How cool is that!!??!!

Here's the excited family, ready for some launch at the NASA cafeteria. I'm sure the NASA employees hate these tour days before the launch. We really messed up their cafeteria time.

After lunch we were let loose where all the "common" folk have to go when they tour the Space Center. We were able to catch an IMAX movie about the our missions to the moon. It was in 3D and this was 3D like I have never seen. I think the last 3D movie I saw was Jaws III. This was way cooler. It looked things were generating from our heads. The kids kept reaching their hands out to try and grab the stuff floating in front of us.

There was a mock-up of the shuttle that the kids could see. Here they are in front of the air-lock chamber they use to get to the bay area. The kids thought it was cool that you could see the toilet they keep on the shuttle. We had a nice discussion about how that works.

There is also a nice memorial for all the people who have lost their lives for the space program. It was a good opportunity to talk to the boys about The Challenger and Columbia. I know that almost eveyone of my generation will remember where they were when the Challenger disaster happened. I was in 8th grade getting ready to go to Science class with Mr. Hopkins. We kept the TV on his room the whole time, trying to get information about the shuttle and praying for survivors. I watched my big, tough, science teacher cry. Memories burned into my mind.

Here is Simon, my freckled cutie-patutie, with a model of space suit.

I couldn't resist taking this picture. I just love it. So glad I had the camera ready. These are my men.... from the biggest to the smallest. It is pictures like this that make me realize what a lucky woman I am to have these people in my life. Every hug, every kiss, is like a precious gift.

This is outside the IMAX theater. Roy was trying to get him to stand like the astronaut in the picture but camera-woman Mom had no idea. I was just snapping photos of that cutie.
Night-time Launch Pad Tour

OK. Now we are on to the 2nd coolest moment of the whole trip. The Night Time Launch Pad Tour!! It was hell getting these kids ready to go at midnight, but so worth it. This is when we realized that the orbiter was there the whole time, just hidden by the launch structure. These pictures don't do it justice. It was lit up like a Christmas tree, a Christmas tree that can shoot off into space at 17,000 miles per hour. Wish we could have on of those in our living room. Does Santa deliver that?
They had us all roped off in an area by the launch pad. The view was spectacular. With our ultra cool camera, we could zoom in enough to make out the word "Endeavour" on the orbiter. I expected to see people peaking out of the windows.

I stood there and stared at this enormous tin can and thought about the 7 brave individuals that were about to place there lives in the hands of this machine. It is basically sitting on a bomb! A really big bomb that will rocket them into space in only 8 minutes. Wow!
We didn't get back that night until 3 am. And wouldnt' you know it, that darn Bobbers (aka Quinn) got up at 6:30 am. I think I gave him a granola bar and turned on Nick Jr. so I could catch a few more minutes of sleep.

So here's the boy that went to bed at 3 am and woke up at 6 am! He fell asleep on the tour bus before it ever left our hotel. I had to sit on the edge of the seat so he wouldn't fall off as the bus rumbled around town.
On launch day we were taken to the NASA headquarters for a reception before the launch. They had this great room setup for the kids to do little projects and play. It actually gave Roy and me an opportunity to be together alone for a few minutes. The kids drew pictures, made rockets with alka-seltzer, and met a real astronaut. Mrs. Pam Melroy came in gave autographs to the kids. Simon found out she was signing pictures so he went up to her and put his own name on a picture. We had to convince him to get Pam's signature because he thought people were just signing pictures!

Here's Quinn drawing his astronaut.

This lady was so good with the kids. She helped them all launch their alka-seltzer rockets. Quinn was very proud because his launched on the very first try. His brother's rockets didn't!

This is Roy and me on the terrace where we get to view the launch. You can see the VAB in the background. And that short building to the right is Mission Control, I think.

While I was in checking on the kids, Roy got to witness the full moon rise up right next to the launch pad. He said it was amazing. We all agree that this would be an incredible picture if it wasn't so blurry.
The rest of the night has to be told and not shown. We decided to not even try and take pictures of the launch. We wanted to remember every detail with our own eyes, not through a view finder.
As the launch took off, the light was blinding. I think we watched the launch for 5-10 seconds before we actually heard it. The best part was when the shuttle reached the clouds. It sent a ripple effect into the clouds that made it look like the heavens were opening up to make way for the Endeavour. Everyone on the terrace gasped. Shivers ran up and down my arms and I really felt like I could cry. I had never seen anything so amazing. And I was there with my family to witness it together.
After the launch we were quickly herded to our bus to make the long journey back to the hotel. What should have taken 30 minutes, took well over an hour. It was like leaving a conert. The roads were so slow. But again....well worth it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We have arrived in Florida!

We're back! It was incredible. We all witnessed the STS-126 launch of the shuttle Endeavor. Wow!!! Right now, those 7 brave individuals are on the Space Station getting ready to install new equipment to increase the stations capacity. But here is our journey.

November 11: Left Columbus on a very successful trip. The kids did great going through security, great on the planes (after Liam realized that traveling means a lot of waiting), and great on the trip to Cape Canaveral. Quinn was so adorable dragging that little Diego backpack around the airports. He didn't want to ride in the stroller because than he couldn't roll the darn backpack around.

Quinn had been wearing this Lightning MacQueen shirt for 3 straight days. He promised I could wash it after this day. Liam, looking grumpy from all the sitting, waiting, sitting some more, waiting some more, OOH, there's a cloud, sit some more, eat some peanuts, sit some more.

Simon catching a little rest on the tray table.

November 12: We hit the beach! The kids loved it. It was their first time to see the ocean and the beach. It is probably a good thing that this wasn't even a really nice beach (lots of kelp, no umbrellas or cute Cabana boys with drinks containing umbrellas.) Their standards will not be too high the next time they get to see one.

I must say that we made some great sand castles with our limited equipment. We started with just putty knives and then discovered some very cool molds. Simon really got the hang of things.