Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Stennis Space Center
Many times during my travels along I-10 I have seen the highway sign announcing the John C. Stennis Space Center. It is located in the vicinity of the Mississippi welcome center at the first rest stop area along the western border of the state. Although I have stopped at the welcome center a number of times I have never taken the time to tour the facility. This is the day that I decided to make that stop and take that tour. The visit is broken into two parts--the information center and the bus tour. I started at the information center, named Infinity, and viewed the exhibits which pertained to the history of man's explorations. Starting with man's first exploration of his immediate environment to the voyages to new territories and global discoveries and ending with space travel and moon missions, each exhibit was well done entertaining and informative. There is a very large children's interactive room and the entire facility, including the outside exhibits, walkways and picnic area, is well suited for school groups. The forty minute bus tour took us to the government facility a mile or so away and we were able to ride around the secured area and see the test areas where rocket engines are put through pre-launch testing. All of the rocket engines for the NASA space program are tested here before being installed in the rockets that are launched from Cape Canaveral. There are a number of different launch/test pads at this site and all are enormous structures. The viewing stands and parking lots are set back a substantial distance from the launch pads because of the burning heat generated from the engines. According to the guide, wildlife in the area sense the impending tests and scatter prior to the blast. (No wildlife was injured or destroyed in the testing of this engine!) About a half hour after the testing is over the wildlife returns to the area and all is well as life goes on. If you are ever traveling along I-10 at the western border and care to take an informative rest break, I suggest you stop here. I did. And I'm glad I did.