Amazing Rocket City Adventure NASA Experience
This post is Amazing Rocket City Adventure NASA Experience. It is a tour of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The tour was offered by NASA as part of the TBEX 2017 conference. It was a private one that offered unprecedented access to some of NASA’s top facilities.
The tour was like one that is given to Congress Representatives and Senators.
You can go on a public tour at the Marshall Space Flight Center and US Rocket and Space Center.
NASA tour vans picked up the attendees from the convention center. The staff checked our identification cards and collected them to turn in at the gate as it is required that you have a valid ID and be a US Citizen on the tour.
The staff member welcomed us and provided background information on Huntsville and NASA and how it fit in with the community.
Upon arrival at the gate, the driver handed in our identification cards and the security officer checked all the passenger’s credentials before welcoming the van into NASA and returning our identification cards.
The driver led us to the administration building for an introduction to the Marshal Space Flight Center.
The chief of NASA in Huntsville greeted us and welcomed us to Huntsville. The director was excited to have us in Huntsville and he welcomed us on behalf of NASA.
The director provided history on the Marshall Space Flight Center and how it was started and its role today.
A tour guide picked us up after the director concluded. The tour guides us where we would be visiting.
The first stop was to get an overview of the SLS Program, which is the next space program that NASA is developing for a mission in a few years.
The program will use a large rocket like the Apollo ones, but with smaller engines as it will have two solid rocket boosters like the space shuttle.
The program will be designed to test going back into deep space and possibly to the moon and mars.
The tour guide pointed out the difference in size between the engines from Apollo and the space shuttle to the SLS.
The tour continued to visit two private NASA buildings where the tour guide connected us with key NASA staff members to explain the operations at each building.
The buildings included a look at how the new rockets are being built from composite materials.
In addition, a NASA team member shows how lasers were used to make metal using a 3D printing system for many of the parts of the rockets.
The tour continued to a room where we had to suit up in white jackets, foot coverings and eye glasses as we were given access to a clean room where part of the spacecraft for SLS was being assembled.
After visiting the clean room, the tour moved over to the Payload Operations Center or PAYCOM where a team of dedicated staff facilities the operation of all the tests and communications with the astronauts at the space station.
The PAYCOM center handled all the data and operations as well as working with the astronauts at the space center as they conducted their experiments and data collection.
At the time of the visit, it was nighttime at the astronauts were sleeping so we did not get to interact with them; however, the director of the PAYCOM area provided an overview of the process.
The tour concluded at the outdoor rocket test facilities where we saw where the rockets were fired up.
Unfortunately, no tests were taking place during our tour; however, we could get close to the equipment that handed the testing.
The tour also visited the historic testing facility for some of the first space missions.
The tour was awesome and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to check out NASA.
A key highlight for me was when I got to go in a clean room and see how the rockets were being built using composite materials like aviation.
The NASA scientist showed us the machine that was used to wind the fabric to make the composite material.
He put on a demonstration of the robot which danced around and could spin and maneuver well throughout the room.
The scientist showed us a completed section and we could feel the difference between the traditional metal and composite materials.
We walked near the oven that completed the composite process using high temperature and pressure. That process makes the composite material stronger than traditional metal.
Another highlight from the tour was when we visited the other clean room where the SLS craft was being assembled.
For our tour, a special section of the rocket was being assembled that housed secondary payloads in a unique system that would allow for them to be sent out into space automatically once the craft reached certain positions which they described as bus stops along the path between initial orbit and just beyond the moon.
The payload system made use of a ring that connected the SLS craft to the rocket in essentially an adapter.
By having this adapter, they could add around 25 unique secondary payload items in space that would otherwise not be used.
NASA will be offering the space to the public and private for test satellites to collect various data points which will enhance the main purpose of the SLS mission.
We got to stand on a platform to see the adapter from above and where the secondary payloads would be housed.
The tour concluded when the NASA tour guide provided a swag bag with NASA material as well as SLS pins.
The tour guide was polite and she made us feel welcome to NASA.
NASA press accompanied our tour and they documented a lot of the experience. You can check out some of those photos on the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center FLIKR account.
The tour concluded as the driver returned the guests to the convention center.
This was an Amazing Rocket City Adventure NASA Experience. It was awesome that NASA gave us such a private experience as well as interaction with some of NASA’s top scientists and engineers. The staff members that I encountered were friendly and they were happy to have us which further enhanced the experience.
What are your thoughts on exploring space?
Check out some of the other great Huntsville Attractions on TripAdvisor.