Kennedy Space Center, Fl – Today the Crew Quarters are being readied for astronauts to once again launch from American soil to the vastness of space!
These iconic hallways on the 3rd floor of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout (O&C) Building at KSC, are where past Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle astronauts took some of their last steps on Earth before heading to orbit, the moon, or to the International Space Station (ISS).
Last week I toured the Crew Quarters at the O&C as part of my interview for the BBC with author Sue Nelson, astronaut Nicole Stott and fellow Sew Sister, Brenda Blackmon, where we had rare access.
First used during the Gemini 3 mission in 1965, the Crew Quarters have undergone many transformations over the years.
In April 1981, there were just 14 bedrooms for crew members. Bathrooms were shared by 2 or 3 astronauts. When crews grew to 6-7 members, and women astronauts began to fly on board, 9 additional bedrooms were created along with a bathroom for each bedroom- for a total of 24 of each.
Every attempt has been made to make the “college dorm-like” rooms as accommodating as possible. To provide a home away from home atmosphere and a chance for the astronauts to relax immediately before a launch.
The newest improvements in the 24,000 sq ft sized Crew Quarters began last year, and include : new carpeting, freshly painted walls, ceiling tiles along with new appliances and an audio/visual teleconference system.
The Suit Room, where astronauts are helped into their pressure suits before leaving for their mission, has been upgraded with new recliners and three Containment Rooms- one each for Orion, Boeing and SpaceX.
Helping to enhance the home-like atmosphere there, NASA held a contest this past February called, “Artists Inspire Astronauts,” with the hopes that the winning pieces would inspire them as they walk down those historic halls!
One of the judges was astronaut Nicole Stott, “The Artistic Astronaut,” who was the 1st NASA astronaut to paint in space.
Story and photographs of the winning entries will be featured soon in an upcoming Space UpClose article.
Once again, the scent of steak and scrambled eggs – a launch day tradition- will be wafting through the Crew Quarters as the astronauts anticipate the trip of a lifetime.
Not to mention a slice of that home baked mission cake!