Tuesday, March 20, 2012


We went to the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando yesterday.  Whereas this might not be a dream destination for the ladies in the group, the guys were pretty excited about it.

First we watched an IMAX film on repairing the Hubble telescope.  It was in 3D.  I always thought 3D was kind of cheesy, but this was really cool.  Maybe it was where I was seated, the geometric center of the theatre, or maybe technology has just advanced since last time I saw anything 3D (The Disney production "Bees.")  Anyway, things just kept hurling at me throughout the 45 minute presentation and it was fun.

When I see shows about space, it creeps me out - so vast and amazing is the subject.  Earth is beautiful! Pictures of our blue planet fill me with wonder but when I see worlds so far away that I can't even grasp the distance, well, I just am awed.

I must have "spaced out" because next I found myself getting my "astronaut i.d. picture" taken to ride on the launch simulator.  This is so not me.  I hate loud noise, I do not like being mechanically shaken and sometimes I find being inside small spaces a wee bit confining.  Still, there were a lot of elderly grannies and small children in line with me so I didn't want to be the one to freak out. 

When we got to the front of the line, the attendant said we'd be the next group to go in.  This meant ten minutes more for me to focus on fear, not a good thing.  A rather large man behind us nervously asked if he'd be able to catch the 6:15 bus if he waited and he was assured that was not problem.  At this point, a guy appeared with a kid of about five or six in his arms.  The child was crying and shaking, clearly frightened by whatever it was we were about to do.  The attendant gently talked to him until he calmed down but she couldn't convince him to go back in.  His violent reaction fueled my fears.

As we waited, the attendant told us that last week there was a malfuntion.  They had to close down twice and it took half the day to fix the problem.  My overactive imagination placed me inside the simulator, trapped for hours.  This probably was not the place to allow my mind to wander at this particular juncture either. 

Finally we saw a movie about what we would experience.  They stressed FODs (foreign object debris) and how things could come out of your pockets and pose a threat to others.  They asked that you place things into lockers provided. Problem was, I never saw any lockers so I began worrying about my hat and sunglasses.  As I'm obsessing about that, we passed lots of large signs warning us about the dangers of FODs.  Then we stood on yellow lines in front of a bank of doors.  There was another short video the gist of which was 'there's no shame in leaving now if you don't feel this experience is for you.' 

At this point I seriously thought about bailing - and so did my son-in-law - but peer pressure kept us both glued to the spot.  They opened up the doors and in we went, strapping ourselves in tightly.  Jerry suggested that I sit on my floppy hat which I did and then, necessity being the mother of invention, I tied my sunglasses to my pants using the drawstring on the waist.  I was good to go - nervous, but good.  Then the lights went down.

As I'm taking a deep breath to calm myself, that big, nervous man from earlier jumped up and started screaming, "I can't do this!  Let me out!"  My husband (Mr. Type A) tells the guy he'd better sit down and strap himself back in or he's gonna become a human FOD.  Mr. Panicky doesn't listen though and begins banging on the door of the simulator screaming.  This further agitates Mr. Type A who has visions of Mr. Panicky landing on us sometime during the next six minutes.

Fortunately this wasn't the Space Center's first rodeo.  The ride was stopped, the doors were opened, the fearful fellow bolted out of the simulator.  The attendant came in and asked the guy's companion if he didn't want to get out to check on Mr. Panicky?  Apparently the answer was "no" because  he didn't get out.  She also sweetly asked us if anyone else wanted to exit.  Both Brent and I wanted to, but peer pressure is a powerful thing and it kept us glued to our seats.

The simulation was loud and our capsule did move but never did we actually go upside down.  It was really quite tame when compared to my imagination.  As we exited our craft, we had to walk around Mr. Panicky who was dramatically splayed on the floor just outside the simulator.

I decided to buy our space i.d. pictures as a great souvenir of overcoming fears.  While I was standing in line, I heard an attendant asking a man behind me if he didn't want to look at his prints.  It was Mr. Panicky himself.  "I bailed," he said. "I don't deserve my picture."
My son-in-law, the brave astronaut

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