Jarrett, Johnson, Newman visit space center

Jarrett, Johnson, Newman awed by NASA tour at Kennedy Space Center, visit inside the Endeavour. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 3, 2003) -- NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman enjoyed an awe-inspiring, ...

Jarrett, Johnson, Newman awed by NASA tour at Kennedy Space Center, visit inside the Endeavour.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 3, 2003) -- NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers Dale Jarrett, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman enjoyed an awe-inspiring, behind-the-scenes look at NASA and the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Wednesday, which included a rare opportunity to sit in the cockpit of the Endeavour space shuttle.

The special five-hour tour was highlighted by the chance to actually sit behind the controls inside Endeavour's cockpit and cherish a view very few outside of astronauts get the chance to witness. The cockpit is a highly sensitive area, which required each of the drivers to take an air shower to remove any foreign debris particles off them as well as don blue "bunny suits" to keep the cockpit free of any foreign particle buildup.

"My favorite part was easy - it was sitting in the commander's seat in the orbiter Endeavour," Newman said. "It was just amazing. All the switches and controls -- they had five master controls to control the shuttle just in case you were out of position. Another amazing thing was, I was told it now takes roughly six months to get to Mars, but NASA's working on a new engine that will go 110,000 miles per hour, which will cut a Mars trip to three months. That's insane. We go 200 miles per hour [in a NASCAR Winston Cup car] and the G's are incredible."

"You see photos of astronauts doing things in the space shuttle and you can't believe it after you actually get in there," Johnson said. "It's smaller than you see on television and it is truly amazing what they do in such a small area. Going into the space shuttle was an unbelievable experience and something I will remember a long time."

The visit to the Endeavour in the Orbiter Processing Facility was part of the tour of the KSC facilities and NASA programs in which the drivers had the opportunity to share with some family, friends and teams members. Jarrett brought his wife, Kelley, and three of his children, Natalee, Karsyn and Zachary, as a continuation of their family vacation that began the previous week. Newman's group included his girlfriend Krissie Boyle, crew chief Matt Borland and Penske Racing South Vice President Don Miller while Johnson brought along his girlfriend, Chandra Janway.

The tour began with a visit to the Space Station Processing Facility, where the group had the opportunity to view the various components of the next international space station that will be sent into orbit. In addition to seeing the U.S. portion of the space station, they also had a chance to see the modules that are being constructed by other countries involved in the project, including Japan and Italy.

The group headed next to the Orbiter Processing Facility, which provided the opportunity to get an insightful look into the Endeavour and NASA's space shuttle program. They also visited the NASA Crawler, a 17-million pound vehicle and launch platform that delivers the spacecraft to the shuttle pad, and Shuttle Pad A, one of KSC's historical and active launch pads. The tour concluded with a somber visit to the Astronaut Memorial, a monument dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration.

"The hospitality by NASA was unbelievable," Johnson said. "I was amazed at how much technology, manpower, energy and effort goes into making NASA and the space program what it is today."

The drivers also found out that NASA and Kennedy Space Center have their share of NASCAR fans. Every area they visited, workers politely asked for autographs and took photos of the drivers as they toured their facility.

"Everyone at NASA was very nice," Newman said. "It was cool to see how many NASCAR fans work there and wanted pictures or autographs. I've been told 18,000 people work there and I'm sure there are a lot of them that pay to go to a NASCAR race to see me, but the tables were turned. I was a fan of the job they do and we were able to get a better understanding of what the space program is all about. NASA is like a little city. It's huge and everything is just incredibly large."

-nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Team Penske