The George C Marshall Space Flight Center is NASA’s largest complex, where rocketry and propulsion are researched and developed.
Tours are available with proper ID as it is located on Redstone Arsenal. The tour departs from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Museum via a NASA bus.
The administration building is where Werner Von Braun and others made space travel possible.
Most manufacturing companies have displays of their products at their corporate headquarters and NASA is no different, only theirs are far more interesting than others.
A display of 3 of the engines greet visitors to the building.
While most people think ‘Houston’ when it comes to NASA Mission Control in reality there are three – Houston, Kennedy Space Center in Florida for ‘Launch Control’, and Huntsville for ‘Payload Control’.
Within this building are the staff that manages the day to day workings on the International Space Station.
The lobby of the building have models of the ISS and an astronaut at work.
A commonly used expression throughout NASA are ‘racks’. Each rack of equipment has specific roles, and teams of engineers are responsible for their rack.
The Payload Operations Center was amazingly small given the critical nature of their work. Just a handful of people are monitoring and managing the effort.
The structures that support the testing of rockets during development are known as ‘stands’. This is likely the most famous stand in the history of rocket development – The Redstone Interim Test Stand.
It was built in 1953 for just $25,000 out of materials scavenged from around the arsenal. They had to do it this way because the government wouldn’t give them any more money than that.
A total of 362 static rocket tests were completed here. Their budget was so low they took railroad tank cars that had been used to transport chemicals – cleaned them and buried them 300′ away from the test stand for their bunker to monitor the tests from.
Nearby you could see some of the much larger, much more expensive newer test stands.
One of the biggest challenges in long duration space flight is water. Because humans need water to survive, they had to come up with a way to conserve water in many ways one would not expect.
They have developed systems to recycle urine and washing water onboard that result in potable water.
The system is held in these three racks. The rotating distillation unit separate liquid from gases, then is sent to another unit for solid removals before the liquid go through a number of filtration’s that remove micro organisms.
They continue to research and develop even more efficient units, and the men’s room has a special urinal that they collect samples from for further testing – so I contributed to science.
As we rode around the complex we passed a number of interesting structures including this small, but very long wind tunnel.
Our final stop was the rocket park where they have examples of the various rockets used in space travel over the years.
While the museum portion was interesting, the additional tour of the Marshall Space Flight Center was by far the best part of the day.