Kathryn Thornton / School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

I have been to the Kennedy Space Center hundreds of time throughout my NASA career, and many more times since I left that world behind, but it never ceases to make my heart beat faster when I see real spaceflight hardware.   The enormous Saturn V rocket or the Space Shuttle Atlantis suspended on display at the Kennedy Space Center are to me and many of my students like dinosaur skeletons at the Smithsonian are to 5-year olds.  Relics of technology past are not only of historical interest but also serve as an inspiration to those who will create technology for the next major milestones in human exploration.   If young engineers in the 1960s using slide rules could successfully build a launch vehicle more powerful than anything we have today, then surely the technologies for interplanetary exploration cannot be out of reach during their careers.

My Dream Idea is to lead students on an insider’s tour of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).   I will use my contacts at KSC to get access to facilities not normally open to tourists.  Even venues that are on the regular tour are very different environments when viewed in quiet pre- and post-public hours.  The ideal time for the tour would be in mid-January before spring classes begin, but if feasible we would try plan the trip around a launch event either at the Kennedy Space Center or the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  Flight processing schedules will determine which facilities are open to us.

Even with only 4 students, the cost exceeds $3,000.   I will find additional funds to cover AT LEAST 4 students. I will endeavor to take more.


Budget for 4 students


Airfare at $300/person: $1,500

Travel to RIC (1 vehicle) at 0.55/mile: $88

Parking at RIC (1 vehicle) at $7/day: $28

Transportation in FL (1 vehicle): $350


Hotel (student/double) at $70/student/night: $840

Hotel(faculty/single): $140

Per diemat $64/person/day: $1,280

TOTAL: $4,226