Shortly after I completed First Report, I knew it was time for a holiday. After six months of intense research and writing, it was time for a reset! No sooner did a finish my last blog post than I found myself on Expedia booking a trip to Tampa, Florida. While I love the ocean, I’ve never been someone that can plant themselves on a beach all day looking longingly at the horizon for the answers to life. No, I need a holiday that inspires me (I also have family in the region that I was looking forward to visiting).
Suffice to say I found plenty of inspiration with my visit to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. This is a museum that I’ve been wanting to see for some time. When I visited the region last year, I simply couldn’t get tickets as they were sold out weeks in advance. But the wait was well worth it.
The surrealism around Dali’s work is nearly impossible to explain as each work yields numerous messages, meanings and emotions. They way he looked at life and transposed those thoughts to art is really something to see. While I’ve toured many museums, this is the first time that I made three trips around the galleries to take in the collection. One thing not to miss are the student artists that study surrealism at the museum. Their work is a must see and wonderfully on par with the world of Dali.
Whenever I travel to a new destination, I always look to see what museums might exist around World War II. The American Victory Ship and Museum answered that search. This was my second visit to this storied vessel that saw service in the Pacific Theater at the end of World War II along with the Korean and Vietnam war. What’s unique about the American Victory is that she is a fully operational seaworthy vessel that still sails a couple of times a year.
We’ve all heard about the famed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. But while the “Greatest Show on Earth” looks like it’s being retooled for a 2023 comeback, a visit to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art “The Ringling” is a must see if you are in the region. From the history of the circus world, to the galleries of European paintings, the Ca’ d’Zan (the winter residence of John Ringling), the grounds themselves and so much more – plan for a full and exciting day.
My final destination on this trip was something I was looking forward to since my first visit last year – Kennedy Space Center. The moment you walk onto the campus inspiration is everywhere. On arrival you’re greeted with a waterfall monument with words from President Kennedy – “For the eyes of the world look into space, to the moon and the planets beyond….” It’s fitting that such words are framed with the Space Shuttle external tank and solid rocket boosters in the distance.
Seeing the Space Shuttle Atlantis displayed as if she’s in orbit conducting a mission and then a complete Apollo/Saturn V rocket just reminds me of the wonders that NASA has brought to humanity over the decades. These are people that imagined the impossible and then made it possible. We can only imagine what wonders lie ahead.
But the highlight of my entire holiday was the add-on enhancement I purchased with my ticket – Chat with an Astronaut. This casual get-together consisted of approximately ten enthusiasts like me having a group conversation with an astronaut. It was truly an honor to meet Brian Duffy. A veteran of four space flights, he piloted STS-45 Atlantis and STS-57 Endeavour along with commanding STS-72 Endeavour and STS-92 Discovery. This opportunity to meet an astronaut that offered his insight, experience and enthusiasm for the space program, and all its benefits to Earth, is truly an experience I will never forget.
A few months ago while searching for First Signal locations I came across The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH. A museum that honors Alan Shepard and Christa McAuliffe with a “mission is to inspire every generation to reach for the stars, through engaging, artful and entertaining activities that explore astronomy, aviation, earth and space science” is right up my alley of interests.
Last Sunday I took a day trip to visit the museum. When you first arrive you are greeted by a 1:1 scale model of the Mercury-Redstone 3 (Freedom 7) that launched Alan Shepard to space. When you see a life size replica of the space program standing in front of you, it puts those early years of the space program into perspective.
For space and science enthusiasts, this museum really gets it right. You’re first greeted by a NASA funded tribute wall to Alan Shepard and Christa McAuliffe before proceeding to the main exhibits. Some of the exhibits include the experimental XF8U-2 Crusader Jet, the Mercury capsule and developmental path and images of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The resolution of the images this satellite has captured make you feel that you are actually on the Moon. Stunning doesn’t even begin to describe what you’re staring at. Considering that part of First Signal’s story revolves around satellites, I found the CATSAT story to be particularly interesting.
Of course no science museum is complete without a planetarium. The Discovery Center’s 103 seat theater did not disappoint! I arrived just in time for the Take Flight show that brilliantly animated the history and science of aeronautics. After the show, there was the space shuttle simulator (it’s not easy!) that was very engaging. But I felt like I was in a scene from The Andromeda Strain when I took a picture of myself in infrared. Between the static exhibits and the interactive, the museum really has something for everyone. One thing I enjoy the most about developing new projects like First Signal is the research. It takes you to places that you might not normally go.
While I was at the museum, I couldn’t help but remember the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger that took the life of all seven astronauts (including Christa McAuliffe). It reminded me of a quote I used in First World from President Reagan’s memorial speech about the accident. In one line he summed up what the dedicated men and women in the space program represent, not only to the United States but the world.
“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”
– President Ronald Reagan; Houston, TX; January 31, 1986