Lewis, Jr. Flying High After Visit to NASA's Kennedy Space Center Homestead, FL (November 13, 2003) -- NASCAR Busch Series driver, Ashton Lewis, Jr., got a behind-the-scenes look at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL on ...
Lewis, Jr. Flying High After Visit to NASA's Kennedy Space Center
Homestead, FL (November 13, 2003) -- NASCAR Busch Series driver, Ashton Lewis, Jr., got a behind-the-scenes look at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL on Wednesday, a visit which allowed the driver an overall view of the inner workings of NASA's space shuttle program.
The daylong tour began with the opportunity to actually sit behind the controls inside the space shuttle Atlantis' cockpit. Prior to entering the highly sensitive area, Lewis, Jr. was required to take an air shower and dress in a blue "bunny suit" to protect the area from any foreign debris. Once inside, Lewis, Jr. was shown the flight controls and how they are used during a launch.
"Of course this was my favorite part of the day," said Lewis, Jr. "It was just amazing. They showed me how all of the controls worked and demonstrated step-by-step how they are used during launch. I consider myself to be very knowledgeable from an engineering standpoint, but actually seeing all of the technology that NASA has at their disposal - I was completely awestruck."
Next, Lewis, Jr. was taken to the building where NASA houses the engines for the space shuttle program. As soon as he walked inside the building Lewis, Jr. received quite a surprise when he discovered that his guide was a former classmate from Old Dominion University. A technology buff, Lewis, Jr. had a lot of questions regarding the $46 million engines and how they work to get the space shuttle off the ground and into space.
"Each week, our engines produce somewhere around 650 horsepower on average," said Lewis, Jr. "The engines on the space shuttle produce about 800,000 horsepower for the six-minute flight into space. That amount of power and how it must feel to be in a machine under that amount of power, is hard for me to comprehend."
The next stop on the tour was to visit the NASA Crawler, a 17-million pound vehicle and launch platform that delivers the spacecraft to the shuttle pad. Then it was on to the launch pad where Lewis, Jr. was taken along the same route as the astronauts when boarding the shuttle.
"What surprised me most was the overall size of this operation," said Lewis, Jr. "From the size of the equipment to the parts used to the number of people it takes to make this program a success. It really is one of the most incredible things I have ever seen and experienced.
I am so grateful to NASA for their hospitality," added Lewis, Jr. "This was the experience of a lifetime for me. I have always been fascinated by NASA and what they have been able to accomplish. Being able to see how the space shuttle program operates and the amount of technology and hard work that goes behind it just leaves me that much more awed and appreciative for what the men and women at NASA do every day."