Thursday, September 20, 2012

Space and Aviation!

Today our Russian visitors had their heads in the clouds!  This morning we went to the Pima Air and Space Museum.  Our friend Chuck, besides his interest in astronomy also loves flight and flying, and lead our expedition around the Museum, where he is a member.  He even studied up on the Soviet aircraft to help explain some of the design concepts to the children.  At left he was pointing out some of the design differences between jets produced by the different countries after WW2.   The museum has a huge number of plane types throughout their hangar space, as well as outside.  Some of my favorite displays are, of course, the SR-71 and the entirety of hangar 4, which has some classic planes from WW2 and lots of displays of the era.  I got distracted by one of the docents who was relating his experiences flying raids over Southern Europe in a B-24.  The group picture at right was taken in front of a B-29.
Even with the warm temperatures in the sun today, we spent a lot of time outside too, cruising the huge planes outside.  I think everyone loves the huge B-36 on display - Chuck says there are only 2 still in existence, neither one flys, so this one was brought in by train...  Outside also is where led us on a tour of "MIG alley", a collection of classic Soviet aircraft.  After a stop at the cafe for a cold drink and a trip through the gift shop, we headed south to our next stop, the Titan Missile Museum.
While heading south from Tucson, I spotted the brilliant white structure of San Xavier Mission.  We were very slightly early for the Missile Museum, so stopped for a few minute break.  We had time for everyone to visit the spectacular Mission, which was established over 300 years ago, the structure being nearly 230 years old!

At the Missile Museum, we toured the only ballistic missile silo open to the public.  A very nice video introduced us all to the "ancient history" (to the kids anyway) of the essentials of the Cold War and the concepts of maintaining nuclear tipped rockets to deter nuclear war.  It still sounds crazy to me and I'm glad that current leaders are reducing, if not eliminating nuclear stockpiles.  Here is a disabled silo and complete Titan II rocket, though with only a shell of a nuclear weapon installed.  We toured the underground facility, all behind the huge blast doors, shown at right.  Designed to withstand a nuclear attack they help protect the crew and nuclear weapon to assure an attack would not prevent retaliation...  An interesting sidelight, after explaining the international group I had with me today, both the Pima Air and Space Museum, as well as the Titan Missile Museum both waived the entrance fees for our group!  Always nice to enjoy spectacular facilities for no cost!
For an evening activity, Kevin, my supervisor at work, agreed to have us all over to play with his son Kyle and wife Andrea.  They have a lovely home, with lots of space for kids to play.  They also generously offered to feed us, ordering a huge buffet of Chinese food for us all to enjoy.  Once learning the concept of Kinect video games, their converted garage was the most popular place in the house!  The unit uses a small video camera to record the positions and motions of your hands and feet to input into the game.  So instead of pushing buttons to play a game, it is played by moving your hands, feet and entire body, getting exercise in the process (shown at left)!  Also popular was air hockey (shown at right), and an outside team-on-team game of laser tag, at least until 2 kids ran into some cacti spines in the dark... 
After dinner and some more gaming, Kevin started a small fire outside to roast marshmallows and make S'mores by adding them to graham crackers and chocolate. Eventually it started getting late and it was time to leave.  Our hosts insisted that we take all the Chinese food home (even with 17 people, we only ate about 1/3 of it all!).  So our Russian friends will have some healthy food with lots of vegetables for the next couple days when they eat at the motel.  The group shot has Andrea at left, Kevin in the back at left and Kyle front and center in the tie-dye t-shirt.  Another memorable night for the visitors!
Tomorrow another astronomy day - Kitt Peak National Observatory for a daytime tour of the big telescopes starting just before lunchtime, staying after the normal closing time for some evening observing.  We won't get back until late, so likely no update tomorrow, possibly not until our Saturday, as Friday will be a long day as well.  But everyone is fine, healthy and enjoying themselves!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dean! Such a wonderful experience for the kids! Nice photos and interesting story!
We are waiting for your new story whenever it would be.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dean! You give our children an unforgettable experience and a great mood!