Monday, April 24, 2017

Orlando Day 7

Today was Sunday, our sixth day in Orlando, though our seventh since leaving Utah. Today we had a full day at Cape Canaveral. We rode on the top deck of a shuttle bus out to Merritt Island. Along the way, Mark swore that he saw a dolphin, but the rest of us only managed to see a few alligators. It was still exciting because these were our first gators.
The boys were so excited to ride on the top of the bus!
Here's the whole gang!
This was one of the first gators we spotted. We were so excited!
We arrived at Kennedy Space Center, which is a lot like an amusement park without the rides. There are space themed restaurants, I-max theaters, and a lot of other touristy things. The first thing we wanted to do was the Space Shuttle Atlantis experience. There was a short show, and then the curtain came up and Atlantis was behind it. We were able to get right next to it, and it is amazing how scarred and used it looked. The cargo doors were wide open, too. It was really cool how big it was. Both Mom and Dad had emotions close to the surface, which is really weird when looking at a rocket. It was truly amazing to see something that had been into space so close!
We were pretty excited to be at the Kennedy Space Center.
Seth was excited to be an astronaut.
There are interesting space things to see all over.
This is a replica of the Mars Rover built from Legos! 
That is actual size of the boosters.
You watch a film, and then Atlantis appears behind the screen.
Then the screen lifts and you can walk out and see the space shuttle. It is pretty amazing! 
We could almost touch the space shuttle. It was surreal.  
We walked all around Atlantis. 
We've learned a lot about space over the last few years, so this was a great activity for us.
There were other things to do, too. The boys went down a slide and did several simulations, which included landing the shuttle, making repairs to the space station, and crawling into the ISS. Mom was a little freaked out at climbing along the clear plastic tube of the space station more than 40 feet above the floor. We got to do almost everything. But we were super disappointed that we didn't have the time to do the launch simulation, as that is what we were most excited for, but we had to be to dinner.
The boys all enjoyed flying the mock space shuttle, but Dad enjoyed it the most. 
This is the ISS (International Space Station) built to size. 
I could not live in here for very long. Dad seemed fine with the tight spaces. 
Mom did not like crawling through the clear tunnel. You could see the floor 40 feet below! AAHH!
Mom liked exploring the non-see through tunnels of the ISS. 
You could slide down this big slide to the next floor. The boys loved it. 
We were excited to see this info about Stephen Colbert. We miss his show!
Dax is trying to land the space shuttle. He got the hang of it after crashing about 20 times.
Dinner was buffet style, and there were about 200 people. The buffet wasn't very good, and the boys didn't eat a thing, but we really liked the program. We had a retired astronaut named Mark Lee come and speak to us. He flew 4 shuttle missions and was the first astronaut to use a jetpack untethered from a ship in space. He spoke for about 30 minutes and showed pictures of some of his missions. Then he took questions. At the end of the meal, he even took a picture with our family. This was the only time that we had the entire crew together in Florida for a picture, even though it didn't turn out very well.
Mom loves waiting in line! We had to wait for a bit before lunch. Nothing like Disney World, though!
This is Astronaut Mark Lee. He had a lot of amazing things to share about space. Our nephew asked a question, "What was the best and worst thing about being in space?" His response was, "There is nothing bad about being in space." 
These are the patches from the missions that he was part of.
Each patch is designed by the astronauts and includes their names.
This is the whole Daniels group. The only pic of us all together!
Immediately after dinner, we caught a bus that took us on a tour around Cape Canaveral. The tour was a two hour ride around the cape to visit a lot of the sites, and it was awesome. There is a National Wildlife Refuge on the island, so we enjoyed looking for animals and got close up views of sea turtles, many alligators, roseate spoonbills, blue herons, opreys, and all kinds of egrets. Best of all we saw a dolphin about 25 yards from shore. Suddenly, we were all believing Mark! It was hard to get a photo of him cresting, but we got a lot of pictures of his fin.
Roseate spoonbills don't even seem real.
You certainly won't see one in Utah. Here are three different birds: Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and Egret.
This alligator was the biggest one we saw.
He made a sudden splash into the water as we were watching.
Shark! Oh, wait, that's the dolphin...
We watched him for nearly 30 minutes. He was so close to shore.
So was he!
We love to see the turtles and tortoises best of all.
The tour was perfect for space nerds like Dad, too. We saw the massive crawlers that slowly roll the launch pad out to its position. There was also the largest one-story building in the world, in which rockets were housed in a standing position before taking off. There were a few monuments and memorials along the way that honored some of the astronauts that have ventured into space. The final stop was to see the Apollo 8 Saturn Rocket, which is the largest rocket ever built. It hung above our heads and was separated into stages. It was almost 100 yards long. You could walk along beneath it, but it was nearly impossible to take a picture. There were also spacesuits, moon rocks, lunar rovers, and a million other artifacts to look at. It was so cool to see so much modern history.
This is the launchpad crawler.
SpaceX is leading the industry right now.
Mom and Grandma.
We probably have the weirdest kids in Florida.
This is the catwalk that connected the Apollo rockets to the launchpad. Imagine astronauts walking right there.
Our boys loved this as much as Magic Kingdom (almost).
That's the rocket storage building.
There were some really well done movies, including this video of the Apollo missions.
This is the actual mission control for those launches. 
Apollo 8 is unbelievably long. It's impossible to get a picture of the whole thing.
The boosters were massive.
The boys liked to touch this rock from the moon.
This is the actual space capsule from when Apollo 14 came back from their mission.
This is what it looked like before traveling through the atmosphere twice.
This patch from the Apollo 11 mission has no names because Neil Armstrong insisted that
this mission was the accomplishment of thousands of Americans.
Bet you didn't know Snoopy was an astronaut too!
By the time we got back from the bus tour, it was almost time to go. We stopped at the gift shop and Mark spent his money on a space shuttle hat and a really cool flight patch from one of the missions that Mark Lee, our astronaut had flown on. Then we high-tailed it back to the chartered bus that would take us back to the hotel.
We were constantly surprised at how well our boys were doing even with all the walking and the long days.
The bus ride was an hour back to the hotel, but Grandpa ordered pizza, and we ate right when we arrived, though it was already 8 pm. Luckily, we're on vacation, so we still had a little time for the pool. Our kids are fortunate that 10 o'clock Florida time is really 8 o'clock Utah time, so in a way, they weren't even that late for bedtime!

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