Have you missed the first two parts about my trip in Florida? You can read them here:
Exploring new places can be a crucial experience in life and visiting the Kennedy Space Center has marked a turning point in mine. For those who do not know, the Kennedy Space Center is one of NASA’s primary launch facilities. It hosted some of the most important space missions – in particular, it is where the Apollo program was carried out. Briefly, the KSC was the point of departure for the astronauts who set foot on the Moon in 1969. The center is on Cape Canaveral in the South Florida Coast, facing the Atlantic.
Let me tell you a little Space Nerd curiosity: if you think about it, all the launch bases in the world are as near as possible to the equator. For instance, Cape Canaveral is one of the points in the US territory closest to the Earth’s equator, whereas for European missions the launch base is in French Guiana. Do you know why? Because if we are close to the equator our rotational speed is much greater than the speed at the poles, although of course we do not notice it. Here is an example: take a spinning top and spin it. If you look at its axis of rotation it seems stationary, on the contrary, the outermost part seems to be moving faster. Since the same thing happens on the Earth’s surface, if we choose the right launch point, we can say that we are departing with a sort of bonus speed. In other words, if we launch from the equator, we get free propulsion. Cool, huh?
But let me continue the story. The KSC itself is a very cool building – the launch simulator is sick – but what left me speechless was the control room. I know, “who gives a shit about endless rows of computers when you have an amazing launch simulator”, but it blew my mind away. Realizing that the space missions which made human history had been organized and controlled from that room, as well as realizing that human beings can so accurately control bodies while they are travelling through space, truly shook me. It was the first time I thought of satellites and space exploration as the vanguard of the human eye: we send satellites where we cannot go, explorers of the universe on behalf of mankind. Maybe that is a very romantic thought, but I think that love and passion are essential to realize this kind of projects.
Among other things, a space shuttle launch was being prepared at that time. We stopped for a few more days but because of bad weather they postponed the launch, so eventually we could not see it – or perhaps fortunately, otherwise who knows what I could have come up with, maybe becoming myself an astronaut. We missed the launch, but we visited one of the most fascinating places I have ever seen, and I told myself something. I remember precisely that moment and where I was sitting, it was shortly after having visited the control room and I thought it would be cool to make even a small contribution to the enchanting world of space engineering. It would be amazing to understand the magic that works every time that tonnes of weight are lifted up in the sky, from where they leave to explore the universe and to push human limits a little forward. Alas, I promised myself that I would try my best to be a part of that world.
It was the summer of 2009; I had just turned fourteen. I bought a souvenir, a pillow that I still guard jealously, and that I have been hugging every night before falling asleep for eleven years now. On the pillow there is sentence: “I need my space”.