Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 3, 2011 - U.S. Space and Rocket Center

This past Saturday we sent Esther on her way, up in the air, upon wings of steel and aluminum to scout out the great wastelands and unknown vast nothingness of the Wild West.

Be brave, boys... be brave.


And then we went and had some fun at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Could be some circa 1960 high-tech control panel, could be the controls for the sprinkler system!

Funny story... a couple of years ago I was helping give a customer at work a tour of our plant and the guy giving the tour pointed to a large, round piece of equipment at the back of the test lab and announced, "and this is the centrifuge NASA used to test the effects of a high g-force environment on the monkeys Able and Baker. We bought it at a yard sale a few years ago." Sure enough, there's a small plaque on it. Which leads me to this picture:

Flight capsule for Able/Baker.
New to the USSRC is the traveling dinosaur exhibit. 

Cast from the actual fossils of "Sue" the T-Rex. (Actual non-fossils of Ben and Jake for scale.)

One of the cooler things to play with in this section were the dino-simulators. Here's Jake playing as a triceratops that's just encountered a heard of peaceful herbivores. He was eaten by a T-Rex five seconds later. Ben managed to fare better. He actually KILLED A T-REX with his little pointy horns, laid eggs, covered the eggs, ate a plant, drank water, and POOPED. The game prompted him to POOP. To our horror, he did so on top of his freshly lain eggs. Oops. 

Jake laments the lack of rocket launcher and the ability to jump.

Minor complaint about the dino exhibit: none of the staff was checking receipts to see if anybody entering the that area had actually paid the extra cash to check it out. It cost the three of us $40 to play the games, see the replica of Sue and not much else. We could have just walked right over on the standard ticket (free in our case for our partner membership at the Anniston Museum of Natural History.)

We also walked around and looked at the rockets that have been there since before I was born. We also rode the G-Force (centrifuge ride) and Ben and I did the Space Shot while Jake recorded video from the ground. Sadly, not much has changed over the years. The Space and Rocket Center is in tremendous need of a fresh coat of paint and and update of their attractions. The G-Force is nothing more than a "Gravatron" like you find at  county fairs across the nation- there used to be a two-tier centrifuge that incorporated a projected film on the ceiling of your "travel through the solar system". The current machine, like the Space Shot, makes not even an attempt at being educational. The idea seems to be, "get spun around and feel 4x normal gravity, just like the astronauts!" and "get shot up into the sky... just like the astronauts!" 

One last complaint and then I'll shut up.

As you can see from the interstate there is a large, cool-looking, black plane parked out front. All the promotional literature calls this an SR-71 Blackbird. But it's not. The plane is an A-12 Oxcart. They look similar, but they are not the same aircraft. 

NOT a Decepticon jet. NOT flown by the X-Men.

More pictures from the day are available here, including artsy-fartsy macro shots of bits and pieces of aero-space doo-hickys.

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