Friday, February 1, 2013

It is Rocket Science!

Odometer 28,240 miles

Trip meter 0 miles

Just up the road from us here in Waveland, Mississippi, is the John C Stennis Space Center, where they test rocket motors for all the NASA space craft. We were quite surprised, and were immediately interested to see if they gave tours to the public. Turns out they do. NASA runs the Infinity Science Center which is another name for a museum of rocket propulsion. The Stennis Center is a 13,500 acre test facility, that was established in 1961 to test the rocket motors that would take us to the moon.

This is the exterior of the Infinity Center rocketry museum.

Since 1961 Stennis has been the test facility for all the rocket motors up to and including the shuttle program. Now they are busy testing hybrid rocket motors such as the one Scaled Composites used to power the first commercial rocket to reach outer space.

The photo above is one of the first stage rockets for a Saturn V rocket, used in the Apollo moon launches. It develops and inconceivable 1,522,000 pounds of thrust. It is still the most powerful single-chamber liquid-fueled rocket engine.

The visit included a tour of the secure facility via a small bus with a tour guide.

This is a picture of two of the three test stands that we were able to see. The tour guide told us there is enough concrete in each stand to build a standard sidewalk from here to Memphis, Tennessee, and more steel than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Each stand is capable of holding more than one motor at a time. During the Apollo tests they would occasionally test 5 at once. The resulting noise and vibration would register on the earthquake seismographs in New Orleans and Mobile.

The Pearl River which runs through the Space Center is one major reason for it's being located here. The large rocket sections and motors are often barged into the facility, and those barges must pass through this set of locks to come up to river height.

The river and canals go right up to the test stands, making the transfer very seamless.

Many different governmental agencies and some private companies also call the Stennis Space Center home. One agency is the Navy Special Boat Team 22 organized in 2002. They specialize in riverine combat craft such as the one shown below. They can deploy boats from moving helicopters, and often practice on the rivers and bays around this part of Mississippi.

The Katrina hurricane that hit this area in 2005 was the first hurricane in 36 years to do substantial damage. Since 2005 several more storms have battered this area, most notably Hurricane Ike in 2008. One resident told us that it is not the high winds that do most of the damage, it is the storm surge that is driven ahead of the winds. Katrina developed the highest storm surge ever recorded on the US coast- 27.8 feet in Pass Christian, a few miles up the coast from where we are currently parked.

The RV park manager told us today that all the houses between the railroad tracks and the beach were destroyed. Any houses you see in the photo above are new since 2005. The vacant areas have driveways and building slabs- the houses were never re-built.

The beaches here are simply astounding- broad flat, beautifully groomed sand that gently slopes into the water. And they are all man-made! Our host told us the beaches are built using dredges to pump in the sand and groomed with heavy equipment to make them inviting. WELL DONE!

The older home here before 2005, typically had fishing piers jutting out into the gulf, just like the ones we showed in our blogs on Rockport and Fulton. Katrina destroyed nearly all of them, and the man made beaches rendered most of those left, unusable Our blog post would not be complete without a beautiful sunset, however it was such a beautiful day today that there were no clouds to make a notable sunset.

Jeff and Joan

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