NASA – My First Memorable Trip in the US
My first domestic travel within the US came in 2014 from Richmond, Virginia. That was another memorable year for my travel book. 

We planned & booked everything that includes a hotel reservation, airline tickets, car rental three months before our journey. The only thing we prayed that no unforeseen scenarios screwed this journey for any one of our team members. Our trip would start from Orlando. As planned, our first leg would be – NASA. It was my first choice & everyone agreed with me.

Finally, the day arrived. As planned, I left my office after lunch on Friday (May 10, 2014). I was supercharged as for the first time in my life; I would witness such a place, which I dreamt for many years. I remembered, when I was a child, my father brought me an expensive magazine of rocket programs around the world. I studied both the American & Russian space programs & how they changed the outlook of future scientific endeavors in space. I read about Apollo programs & how the US traveled far distance moon, landed there & also brought some “Moon-rock” with them. To see all of that, along with few launch vehicles, would excite me immensely at the beginning. I spent every second like a month & I couldn’t wait anymore.

I didn’t have a direct flight. My first leg is from Richmond to Charlotte. My flight was on time, and it left Richmond by 3:00 PM local time. I was carrying only carry-on luggage along with my DSLR/Laptop bag.

I reached Charlotte by 5:30 PM local time. I waited for Utpal to join as he was from that city. I took a coffee & within ten minutes he arrived. Then we boarded our final-leg flight to Orlando. During the flight, I watched a program called “Apollo’s Space Mission” to refresh my childhood memories before we arrived at Orlando.

We reached by 9:00 PM local time. All of our travel companions joined us within ten minutes of our arrival at the Orlando International Airport. Finally, we rented two cars as we had a group of ten people, including me. Six of our group can drive. So, they decided to drive on a rotation basis. So, everyone could take some rest on the trip. Finally, at 10 PM local time, we started our journey from Orlando Airport to our hotel. NASA facility was not far from this place. We reached there by 11 PM local time & quickly took our dinner at the hotel. I took a hot shower & then went to bed for the next day’s adventure. As agreed, we had to start our journey at 8:00 AM & needed to reach NASA by 10 AM.

I barely slept for two hours due to excitement & woke-up at 6 AM & prepared myself by 7:30. At last, we started towards the “Kennedy Space Center” at 9:30 AM.

Our drive was pleasant & our car was accompanied by a beautiful bay just beside the highway.

We reached there by half an hour & parked our car. We had to walk from there.

I saw the “Welcome” sign & was able to view some of the life-size rocket models that stood from a distant location.

We went to the ticket center & get our ticket by showing our online booking details. We received decorated tickets along with a booklet containing information on all the shows for that day.

We had to wait in a queue & went through a security check-in. Finally, I entered into my dream place. Lots of emotions were going through my mind, heart & soul. I couldn’t believe that I was there. And, there I saw the iconic NASA logo.

I went a little further & found a fountain that contained some of the famous lines from President John. F. Kennedy.

We walked towards a bus tour that operates within the NASA compound. And, we saw those life-size models much carefully.

The left side picture depicts some of the early models, whereas the below one portrayed a relatively newer one.

We had to take that bus ride by 11 AM. So we could return within 2 PM. Because, we planned to attend a show named “Apollo 11 Moon Mission” from 2:30 PM local time. That was a Must for everyone. So, we took the ride & the bus took at various memorable places within the NASA general campus. We saw the original countdown center & launchpad for the Apollo mission.

Also, our guide showed us the place where they kept their liquid hydrogen fuel for their rockets.

Our guide informed us, many of the water areas infested with crocodiles & other such animals to prevent unauthorized access from the outside due to its operation nature in mind. We managed to see one such crocodile roaming around such waters.

NASA picked their best pilots & brought them into the various training programs. The best candidate selected for the final mission. Their gravitational training also conducted over there.  

We finished our tour by 2 PM. We ran towards our theater to view the Moon landing show. I must say it was one of a kind show. We entered the original control center of Apollo’s mission & inside; they have arranged a sitting place for the visitors. They played the actual communication that recorded between the crew & the mission control & focused the light on that particular spot of the controller, who was speaking at that time. Similarly, the light shifted to the other controller’s terminal from the current terminal, when he/she started talking to the crew. Not only that, but the main three big screens were also showing the rocket movement & the apollo-crew in a video. You would feel that everything was happening in front of your eyes, starting from the guidance given by the controllers & acknowledging the instruction by the space-crew. In the end, one dummy lander came-down from the top of the theater as if it landed on the moon.

One astronaut came out from the lander. I was astounded by watching that show.

The exit of that theater led us to another museum, where they kept their original rockets & original moon lander. Also, they kept some of the daily used products in the space by the astronauts.

I was again amazed when I saw the actual moon rock that was displayed over there & visitors even could touch it. However, no one couldn’t lift that. It was once in a lifetime opportunity to feel that moon-rock. Also, we witnessed astronauts spacesuits during that era. Every corner we went, we learned something – “Science & History.”

We went to another museum where we watched Saturn – V rockets. It was massive. 

Also, we observed the replica of the car, driven by astronomers on the surface of the moon.

Finally, we went to watch the shuttle show. And, we learned a lot from there. To reduce the cost & other complexities, NASA prepared to come up with a reusable launch vehicle. As per their expectation, that would drastically reduce the operating & maintenance costs. Since they added a plane like vehicles on top of the rocket boosters, astronomers can fly it like a plane during their return trip, which would save their fuel & also they can land it in an airport like places rather than entirely remote areas. That way, they could save time, money & extra resources to find out the capsule. At the end of that show, a door opened & I saw the space shuttle “Atlantis.”, I saw it earlier but only on TV. This time it stood in front of my own eyes—another life-changing event for me.

Many of our friends took many such memorable photos during this trip. I took a few milestones & tried to control my sheer excitement. I felt like a dream; at last, it came to be true.

All of a sudden, we realized that it was 4 PM & we all were super hungry. Thankfully, there was a restaurant inside the campus & we went there & I ordered some burger & coke.

Perhaps, this trip would be memorable, not only due to my first domestic trip alone in the US. But, one of my childhood dreams came alive. I guess I couldn’t explain that in words.

I’ll share NASA to my next destination in the upcoming post. Let me know how do you enjoy this down memory trip with me? I’ll be looking forward to your comments.


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