I got a NASA badge!

 Last week I finally got my NASA badge, which means I can go into the restricted areas on the refuge and over by all the NASA buildings! 
So, on the way back from the badging station, Candice (the acting refuge manager) and I went on a little drive around the Kennedy Space Center and took some pictures. She’s been on the KSC tour so many times she could tell me all about everything, my own personal tour guide.
The Vehicle Assembly Building. Each stripe on the flag is wide enough for a tour bus to drive on without touching another stripe.
The Vehicle Assembly Building, with the display shuttle in front.
Not an actual shuttle. This is the model that was inside. It has been moved outside because they’re putting one of the actual shuttles on display.
Closeup of the shuttle replica.
NASA News!
The countdown clock.
Note the large rectangular door on the side, one way to tell this isn’t a real shuttle.
The long gravel path is how the shuttles are moved from the VAB to the launching site. They are transported on a vehicle called a Crawler, and it takes something like 8 hours to move the shuttle.
Where the shuttles are launched.
The Beach House, where the astronauts spend the night with their families before they are blasted up into space.
View from the Beach House.
View from the Beach House.
View from the Beach House.
The Crawler– how the shuttle is transported from the VAB to the launching platform.
Not sure what the purpose of this structure is.
So we had to get out and walk underneath it.
This is 1 side 2. Whatever that means.

And we are go for launch

One of the perks of living on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is that NASA shoots up rockets in your backyard. Tonight I went out and watched the launching of the Atlas V Mobile User Objective System 1 satellite. The MUOS 1 is a military satellite, which will “improve ground communications for U.S. forces on the move” ( from the Kennedy Space Center website).

It’s a pretty spectacular sight, and I managed to get a video. I apologize for the shakiness, I’m not very good at holding still.

Atlas V MUOS1 rocket launch

If you listen closely you can hear the countdown on the radio. There is an AM station that follows the launches and talks directly to the Air Force and NASA people involved with the launch. It’s very interesting to hear what they do to prepare, and to know what’s going on, especially if there is a weather delay, as there was last time I went to watch a launch.

The large building is the Vehicle Assembly Building of the Kennedy Space Center.

Here are some pictures before and after the launch

Greetings from Sunny Florida!

Currently, I am residing in Florida, on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I live in the bunkhouse on the refuge, sharing space with four other people. It is a great building, only a few years old, and very comfortable. As far as free housing goes, this is just about as good as it gets. My only gripe is the toilet paper dispenser. I fail to understand why putting the dispenser below the level of the toilet seat is handy. I have to bend over completely, chest touching my legs, and then reach down, hitting my hand (and the tp) on the floor, in order to get some toilet paper. As I’ve been here a month now I’ve perfected my tp grabbing skills and can usually manage to avoid it hitting the floor.
Stupid toilet-paper holder.
 I should probably now also mention that any views expressed here on my blog are my own, and in no way reflect the views of the Student Conservation Association (who placed me in this internship), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (who my internship is with), or NASA. I shall now refrain from making a comment regarding the government and the toilet paper holder placement.
The Vehicle Assembly Building. It’s so tall that when they first built it clouds formed at the ceiling, they had to install fans. I think they used to assemble space shuttles and rockets in there.
Some weird golf-ball thingie, there might be some kind of radar or satellite in there, I’m not sure.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a unique place, and one that I am finding myself to enjoy more than I thought I would (I mean, it’s Florida and flat, no mountains, but the awesome birds here make up for it). Originally the 140,000 acres of the refuge were bought up by NASA for the Kennedy Space Center, the majority of the land as a buffer zone around the NASA buildings and launch pads. Eventually U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service got involved and turned the rest of the land into Merritt Island NWR and Canaveral National Seashore, which encompasses seven different habitat types: coastal dunes, saltwater marshes and estuaries (that’s two), freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks, all of which contain copious mosquitoes (to which I can personally attest). Canaveral National Seashore is part of the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in Florida, stretching 24 miles down the eastern coast. These areas are home for over 1,500 species of plants and animals, including 15 Threatened or Endangered species. “With an excellent long-term working relationship among NASA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, this unique area is a shining example of how nature and technology can peacefully co-exist.” (from the Merritt Island NWR website, which I recommend for further details on the history of MINWR).
And they mean it too. The guard at the pass booth has a gun, I hear. I wouldn’t know, I’m not authorized to go on NASA property yet.
Sunset from one of the impoundment roads
I am a Public Use Intern, which means I work at the Visitor Center, sometimes helping with school groups, sometimes manning the front desk and showing people where to go to see roseate spoonbills, and sometimes doing fun intern stuff like organizing filing cabinets. Whenever I get too over-stimulated by the filing I go play with Buddy, my supervisor’s pet red rat snake. I’m currently working on a presentation about red rat snakes, so I’m sure pictures and more information will be coming soon. I also get to help with the Eagle Watch, where we set up spotting scopes on a bald eagle nest and show visitors the eaglets jumping around. Pictures of that are also forthcoming.
Two great egrets
One of the roughly 5,000 gators on the refuge. This guy (or gal) is probably about 10ft long.
A northern mockingbird reading one of the signs along Black Point Wildlife Drive. The birds here are smart!
Merritt Island is a wonderful place, especially for birds. The birding is fantastic—I’ve been here a month now and still haven’t seen everything I’d like to or gotten bored. Just today at the feeders behind the Visitor Center we had painted buntings and a white-winged dove. You know you work somewhere cool when you can casually glance out the window and see painted buntings all day.
Painted buntings, male (on left) and female (on right). There are three pairs that frequent our feeders.
I am very much looking forward to my next two months here, getting to experience and know this amazing place!