I scared a critter out of my yard this weekend:

Unfortunately the direction in which it fled was into the crack between my house and the concrete step to the patio. I’m not sure if that lets out somewhere else or if it just got into my crawlspace. At any rate, I’ll probably be more careful letting the cats out and walking in my yard barefoot for the next couple weeks.

Besides the snake the only animal I’ve seen in my yard recently was a mouse that immediately ran through the crack to my neighbor’s yard when I saw it. I’m pretty sure that one didn’t stick around because the cats haven’t expressed any great interest in the area I found it in and I’ve specifically put them down where I thought they’d be able to smell it if there were something to smell.

Stennis Space Center

On the way back from Florida (driving to my parents house in Texas) we stopped by Stennis Space Center. Stennis is where they test fire rocket engines, so the big highlight (as far as I was concerned) was the bus tour of the facility that drives you by the different test stands.

First off, outside the visitor center they’ve got an F-1 engine (five of these powered the first stage of the Saturn V).
F-1 sideF-1 Nozzle

The visitor center didn’t have much to offer, but they did have a wall of mission patches. I took pictures of the patches of the two shuttle flights I saw launch.
STS-70 PatchSTS-78 Patch

After we loitered in the visitor center for quite a while we finally managed to get onto the bus tour. Shortly after entering the facility gates we were driven past the old visitor center (the current one is a few miles south). On the top of that building was a tower, on which was Wernher von Braun’s observation deck: the tower was tall enough to see over the trees, so all the test stands would be visible (at a distance) from the comfort of an air conditioned building.

Stennis Test Stands
In that picture, from left to right (background, foreground, background) are test stands A-3, A-2, and A-1. Identification between A-2 and A-1 is a guess based on pictures/info from wikipedia, but I’m pretty confident I have it right. I’m sure the tour guide told us, but I wasn’t paying particularly close attention. Anyway, wikipedia tells me A-3 is to test under high-altitude/vaccuum conditions, and A-1 and A-2 are Appollo-era stands: A-1 for testing the second stage of the Saturn V and A-2 for something unspecified (but it’s currently repurposed for testing the J-2X).

B-1/B-2 Test Stand
This test stand is behind and to the right of where the last picture was taken. It’s the B-1/B-2 test stand, which was where the full Saturn V first stage was tested.

While my phone works fine for general pictures (especially things that are close), I really could have used something with a zoom on it for taking pictures at Stennis. I have a point-and-shoot somewhere, but the image quality on it was pretty bad and it has a habit of taking terrible pictures when the battry is low. At some point I’ll need to get a decent camera.