October 12, 2011

We took Alex to the Johnson Space Center Open House and toured buildings 14, 16, 30N and 11.

Heather and Alex on the Pad 39-B Orbiter Access Arm. NASA contractors said the arm was trucked in from Florida the week prior. This was a real highlight of the day for me.

The circular lens is for the camera that was used to watch the close-out crew and the astronauts in the "white room".

Orion test vehicle. Used for water tests, training, etc.

An authentic Shuttle heat-shield tile. It was very light. It felt fragile and there was tiny granules (silicon?) coming off of it as one handled it. This was another treat.

Building 14 at JSC.

Two of the five actual STS-1 general-purpose computers. Building 16 at JSC -- Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory.

I talked with a gentlman who worked at SAIL for two decades, if I remember correctly, and now works in the energy industry. He would be on call during missions, ready to help if one of the shuttles had a problem. OV-95 was a test vehicle in building 16 that allowed hardware and software avionics testing. It also was used for troubleshooting when one of the shuttles was in-flight. All the wires aft of the crew bulkhead are exposed. It's really neat to see all of the wires in the payload bay and aft of the payload bay bulkhead, where the main engines, APUs and lots of other electronic equiment would be.

The payload bay looking aft.

The payload bay looking foward, the left portion of the bulkhead between the middeck and the payload bay.

The payload bay looking foward, the right portion of the bulkhead between the middeck and the payload bay.

Alex aft of the payload bay bulkhead (i.e., aft of the payload bay). I think this is where the main engines and APUs (among other equipment) are on a flight shuttle.

Building 30N, otherwise known as the Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center. This MCC room is where many of the shuttle flights were controlled from.

This room was the first mission control room, where some of the Mercury, all of the Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab, and some of the shuttle flights were controlled from. Apollo 11 happened here. So did Apollo 13. So did STS-1.

I talked with Jack Knight for a while, a retired engineer who held many positions at JSC in his 40-year career, including chief positions for several branch and division posts within the Mission Operations Directorate. I wanted to talk to this guy for hours -- sounded like a great guy.

Here are two NASA interviews of him that I found, plus a shuttle incident that he helped investigate:

interview 1

interview 2

Investigation Report of the STS-87 SPARTAN Close Call

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