FOLLAEIN oan frae lest week’s spiel anent oor holidays in Florida ah’ll aiblins tak the chaunce this week tae hae ane mair mindin o wir time in America. This wis oor veesit tae Cape Canaveral an the Kennedy Space Center, situated oan Merritt Island.

At the meenit ah hae a poetry project oan the go wi Professor John Brown, the Astronomer Royal fir Scotland, wi a proponed buik comin oot neist year. Sae ah thocht the Kennedy Space Center wid mibbes kythe some inspiration fir ma cosmic ongauns!

Lik a wheen o things in America, the space centre is oan a vast scale. We veesited during the lest week o the schuil holidays there, sae the place wis hoachin wi families an weans. The waither wis the usual Florida summer combination o rid hoat versus thunner an tropical downpours. It costs $50 a heid tae veesit the centre, but it is oan sic an undeemous scale that ye can easy spend a hale day there an nevir tire o the ferlies an wunners that it hus tae oaffir.

We met a hauntle o Scots in the queue tae gang in, an later a family frae Northern Ireland. Likesay, the scale o the place is aiblins designt tae tak yer braith awa; as ye enter ye pass the muckle Heroes And Legends biggin, the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, that heizes the nems an tells the stories o space pioneers, fowk whaes nems ye’se wull aa be fameeliar wi. The neist thing ye pass is the Rocket Garden. Here ye wull see a group o giant rockets frae Nasa’s Mercury, Gemini an Apollo programmes; the samen rockets that aince taen the first astronauts intil orbit, an later tae the Mune.

As wi aa these kindae places in America, aathing seems verra efficient an the staff are aye-an-oan friendly, polite an helpful. Alsae, it bein America, thair nae shortage o food outlets an thair wir cafes an sit-ooteries oan evri corner, aa wi some kindae space themed nem; Orbit Café, G-Force Grill, Milky Way …! In ane o the cafes they hud a display o hydroponics, wi the explanation that this is hou they micht growe their ain food when they colonise Mars.

Likesay, the tropical dooncome wis ne’er faur awa, but there’s plenty o places ye can jouk intil tae haud wide o the rain. This wis whit we duin when we went tae a screenin at the Imax Theatre. There we saw a byordnar 3-D film anent the international space station an the wark it dis. Ye goat tae see in minute detail the kindae routines an ongauns that the astronauts perform oan a daily basis. Some o the film o Earth frae the Space Station wis utterly braithtakkin! They showed us South Korea at nicht, aa lit up lik ony western European kintra, then next tae it, at nicht, wis North Korea whaur aa thing wis in pit mirk. Ae pictur tellin a thoosan wirds! The film hud a strang eco message an left a muckle impression oan the audience.

In anither room a muckle globe seemt suspendit in mid-air. It birlt roond constantly wi eemages projectit oantae it o waither patterns aa roond the warld. Scientists wid cam an go, ilk wan o thaim takkin turns tae gie talks aboot maitters relatin tae no anely oor ain planet, but ither planets in oor solar system. The eldritch globe wid spin, syne takkin oan the appearance o Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, etc. The scientists providin a rinnin commentary anent the latest thinkin oan oor ain solar system an the future o space travel.

We hud buiked a planned tour fir the day, sae evri hour or sae we heidit tae a new venue or exhibit. Shuttle buses wheeched aabody aboot an it wis weel thocht oot an organised. Neist we went tae the Space Shuttle Atlantis display. This is housed in ane o the biggest buildins ah hae e’er seen! Hunners o fowk thrangt intil it, thair wis braid stairs an gangways that led us aa intae a muckle auditorium the size o a michty aeroplane hangar.

The airched ceiling wis shapit lik a vaulted cathedral, an oan this, heich abune yer heid, wis projectit oan gigantic screens the story o the technical an engineerin tyauve tae create the Space Shuttle. An wis this no loud!?? Rockets taen aff in yer lug, an jet engines screiched at a hunner decibels! When the film show wis by (spoiler alert!!) the giant, opaque screen at ae end o the hangar liftit, an thair, richt in front o yer verra een, suspendit as tho in mid air, wis the Space Shuttle Atlantis! The crood spontaneously applauded – an nae wunner! It wis ane o the maist spectacular shows ah hae e’er seen. An truly oan a cosmic scale! The muckle Atlantis hangar went oan firevir, wi displays recreatin the verrious aspects o the Atlantis’s development, missions an equipment. We spent a guid hour explorin Atlantis.

We then attendit a talk bi an astronaut. It seems they hae a lang leet o retired astronauts wha gie o their time tae educate the public an explain the realities o whit it’s like tae traivel in space. Oor guy wis caa’d Paul Gregory, an it wis obvious he wis an auld haund at this! Eftir talk o pu’ in 3Gs (the weicht o three big men sittin oan yer chest!) then gaun in a hairtbeat frae that pressure tae total weichtlessness! He then proceeded, lik the showman he wis, tae answer thon maist thorny kinch o the universe’s great mysteries; hou dae ye gang tae the toilet in space! His answer wis graphic, entertainin an enlichtenin!

In the past three days SpaceX’s chief Elon Musk haes spaken o his intention tae glaum at the rid planet – Mars. The Kennedy Space Center isnae some theme park, it bides as the beacon an launch pad that micht see the human race ae day truly gang whaur nae man hus gaen afore!

Rab Wilson is a Scots poet and health campaigner