Monday, January 07, 2013

Travel tales - Mission to Mars

2013 - the year that almost wasnt.

Of all the 30 odd years that i've been through, 2 years stand out. One is the year 2000, millenium year. The next one being 2012 - the superstar year of the doomsday. It had been in news from more than 2 years prior and as the day approached it would have been the most searched year in google history. In many ways, 2012 was year of dares for me. I stretched myself beyond my wildest dreams and ventured into things i never ever will do it again in my life. Apdi enna saaathichitennu kekareengala. Ellam vazhakkam pola sappa matter thaan still for me it was like !!!! As i mentioned before, the year started with conquest of fear over water rides, extended into kitchen and cooking and culminated in the mother of all vacations i've ever had in my life. Infact, if i sum up the number of days i ever went on a vacation it might still be slightly lesser than this one trip!!

Like "Thenali" kamal i am scared of everything. Especially the panja boothams of nature. I respect, in awestruck admiration, the unimaginable power of nature and like a humble servant in front of an emperor i shiver at very thought of an angry mother nature. My worst nightmares are often involving the forces of nature like me getting stuck in mid of an earthquake, surrounded by ocean everywhere in thundering rain, running away from volcanic eruptions and losing myself in a dense dark forest where trees are tall and thick enough to hide the sky. The top scare amongst all of them is place up above - space. When i read Tintin - Explorers on the moon and Destination moon, you wouldnt believe, for almost a week, i had trouble sleeping. I used to dream as if i was teleported to a place without gravity and me desperately trying to land my feet on the ground only to be left hanging in space. And i used to imagine space to be a place full of deafening noise, filled with sounds of rotating planets and comets whooshing across. A place, darker than pitch black with flashes of blinding light. And when i read about black holes in my physics, well universe and nuclear physics were the ONLY chapters i read with interest in physics, in all of my ten years of studying it, my nightmares only grew more in dimension. It was fascinating to say the least to read about birth and death of stars, supernova and the always mysterious black holes, which are so powerful that they suck in even light and are invisible!! At the time STAR TREK was on air in DD and i used to watch it on and off. The spaceships were fascinating and i simply assumed once you are inside a space ship, well, you are immune to these fears and will be safe and sound. Believe me, it was the total opposite.

The first phase of our trip, began with a visit to NASA's Kennedy space center on Cape Canaveral.
The excitement grew manifold the moment we stepped on to the causeway leading to the center. I couldnt help imagining SRK in "Swades" :) Since we had booked the tickets over phone, we got a 50% discount which was the only interesting factor that pushed my friends to making this part of the trip :) It began with a guided tour that was pretty mokkai. But it left us wondering whether we have anything similar in India by ISRO. I guess in our country these all come under the defence establishments and they dont throw it open for the public. Wish they come up with something similar. Like every other place we went after NASA, the main source of income for running these places came from tourists and not government funding and needless to say, majority of the crowds were Asians - Chinese and Indians to be precise. The only part of the tour that could've been interesting, was the trip to the main building of NASA from where the actual operations take place. They showed the building from around a 2 mile distance and were only explaining about it orally. That was a real dampener. But the buliding in itself was so majestic. There was a huge American flag painted on it and the driver of the tour bus explained that 2 buses side by side can travel on the "white" lanes of the flag alone!!! Then only we began to realise the size of that imposing structure. From a 2 mile distance it looked normal. But as the bus took a curve closer to the building we were awesturck in wonder at that sheer size of the building. It was HUGE to say the least.

I took the first of the many rides that set the tone for the trip. (Oru vazhia first rendu para la poatta mokkaiku link vanthuruchi :D)

There was a space simulator machine, akin to the mission to Mars shuttle, where in the setup would be exactly similar to what the astronauts encounter in their voyage. Atleast, that's what these guys said. There were 2 lines - orange for the not so brave and green for the daredevils. All my friends went for the green one and pushed me into it. Right till the doorstep into the simulator i was resisting and looking that a 5 year old kid went running into the machine next to ours defeated my struggle. And thus began our trip to MARS. Each of us were assigned a task and was the engineer of our ship. There would be voice over commands for the pilot, captain, navigator and the engineer and each of us had to press the button that glows at that time. After the blast off, the simulator shook so much that i thought my teeth will fall off!!! Felt some one was squeezing the skin out of my face and rotating me at the same time. Finally we "landed" on Mars. The entire trip didnt last 10 minutes but was one experience i am not going to forget in a hurry.

We then, visited the place from where the NASA guys guided the first successful trip to moon. They had the setup exactly in same way, as it was the day of the launch. That presentation was really wonderful. They had voice overs of the entire launch setup like a theme play with sound setup and all in place and when the actual blast off happened, the entire auditorium shook, just like how those guys would've felt then. It felt awesome, howmuchever one doubts the authenticity of their mission to moon. By the time we settled for lunch it was 4PM and that also set the tone for the kind of food i was going to get for the reminder of the trip. Howmuchever i searched for, the only veg item i could find was a cheese pizza - pizza with only cheese. NO other toppings!!! And that too, it was on the kids section!!! Little wonder they fight obesity as strongly as they fought aginst the communists during cold war.

We missed out on a few other events and attractions due to lack of time, but still left the place with the satisfaction of a time well spent. After another 5 hours of drive, we reached the next leg of our tour.

(To be continued)


RS said...

Waaaaah! Speechless......

Ramesh said...

Wonderful. Look forward to following your vacation.

Yes Cape Canaveral is one of the great places to visit. If you are a space buff, its an awesome place. Great that you went there. Many people who go to Orlando just go to the theme parks, but the NASA centre in Cape Canaveral is a gem. Its one of those places where you feel awed at what man can do.

gils said...


:D:D sooper fast :D


well..orlando porathu decide aanathum first poganumnu decide panna edam ithaan..i had lot of preconceived notions about how this place wll be..having watched in many movies..but it was nothing like tht..maybe those places are guarded i guess

RS said...

Love this template and the color....

Asha said...

Wowieeeeee.....You are soooooo lucky, i am terribly J of you.

aana naanay NASA partha experience unga narrationla vandudu. we went for a 4D experience in a mall here and so i could relate to your astronaut audio tour. Good one.

spacea kanda bayama ungalukku( enakkum aana that is my inspiration too... infact NASA was my ambition/dream destination to work after my graduation.

LUCKY U, bring on more experiences appidiye kitchen tales kooda;)

Anonymous said...

yayy! this was one of the best places I have been to. Being a space buff, I really enjoyed it. Glad to know you liked it :)
One post on Harry Potter ride pleaseeeeeee

Vincy said...

I ENVY YOU. Period.

Vincy said...

I ENVY YOU. Period.

gils said...


:D:D it looks sober right :D sila pala postugaluku wl retain this one for you :D:D


ungalathaana kekanum..ISROla intha mathiri ethachum tour irukaa enna?? oru rocket scientistkay J vara alavuku irukka!! naangalam local tourist..neenga meiyalumay rocket vitavanga..ethu perusu? :D

gils said...


soor :d on the way :D


hahahaa...enna envy panrathukum intha olagathula aal irukaangala!! :D:D sippu sippa coming :D