Wallops and NASA
Jun 2, 2008
|Wallops NASA Flight Center and the drive to Maryland- Monday, June 2
Wallops - Monday, June 2, 2008
Before leaving Pine Grove we toured the waterfowl pond again, then stopped at the Chincoteague recycling center, a gift shop and the post office, which we found after many wrong turns in spite of Lucy and her global computer.
We re-crossed Chincoteague Channel and drove the long causeway back to the mainland. A few miles up the road we passed the former Chincoteague Naval Air Station, which is now the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, and we decided to stop at their Visitor Center to see what it was all about.
It turned out to be an interesting place we never knew existed, but where a lot of things we’d heard about occurred. This base has existed since 1945 and became one of the first NASA bases when NASA was established in 1958.
In the early years research was conducted here on aerodynamics, using rockets to launch test aircraft so data could be accumulated that was not obtainable in the wind tunnels of the day. Later research was done on weather and atmospheric projects, and then Wallops got involved in the space program.
The Mercury safety systems were developed here, and the monkeys Sam and Miss Sam were launched from here and were ultimately returned here after their space missions.
In addition to these exhibits they had several excellent videos, showing astronauts broadcasting from weightless space and talking about the engineering aspects of space travel. One especially good video was about how Newton’s Laws of Motion apply to space engineering.
They also have an observation deck where you can see Wallops Island (the actual launch sites) in the distance, and even Chincoteague Island. On the opposite side of the road you can see their main base, and there are several outdoor exhibits as well.
We fixed lunch in the RV in the Wallops parking lot where there was a nice cross breeze and we could watch the visitors come and go. Then we got back on the road and headed for Maryland, which wasn’t far away.
When you cross the line between any two states the scenery usually gets different quickly. The line between Virginia and Maryland was no different. The road striping got wider and the houses were different and built closer to the road. You can certainly tell you are in an older part of the country because there are still lots of houses and buildings that date back to the 1800’s.
Leaving Chincoteague and Wallops NASA Flight Center we had gone inland a ways. We now turned back toward the coast. It’s only a little over 60 miles to the north end of Assateague Island, even going this way. We found the Visitor Center, which is on the mainland just before you get to the bridge, and we stopped to get our bearings,
There are two large campgrounds on the island, a State Park and a National Park Service park. Neither had hookups or hot showers, and with out Golden Age Geezer Pass the national park is only $10.00 (half price) a night as compared to 30.00 or $40.00 a night for the State Park. Both had sites on the beach side and so it was a no-brainer. We chose the National Park and took a site for two nights.
We found a nice site just over the dunes from the beach and got settled in. There is a lot of standing water here and the mosquitoes were thick, but we figured there would be fewer on the beach so we headed out over the boardwalk in that direction.
Looking up the beach to the north you can see Ocean City, Maryland. In fact until the 1930’s Assateague was merely another peninsula attached to the mainland at Ocean City - until a hurricane separated it and made it an island. You’d think that experience would have told them something, but apparently it didn’t.
Ocean City bowed to development pressure and let them build high rises and condos right on the beach. Now each year the city has to spend millions dredging sand from the ocean to shore up the beach where natural sea action keeps removing it and threatening to wash away all those ritzy man made ‘improvements’. It would be a real improvement if it did!