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Home of America’s Space Program Offers abundance of natural wonders to explore in immediate vicinity

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A National Park for the Father of Parks in America. VOA

US, Feb 28, 2017: When people think of Cape Canaveral, Florida, they usually associate it with America’s space program. The Kennedy Space Center is where NASA launched the Saturn V rocket that put the first men on the moon in 1969.

The real Florida

Since then, the area has been the site of many more launches into space. But as national parks traveler Mikah Meyer recently discovered, there is also an abundance of wildlife and other natural wonders to explore and admire in the immediate vicinity.

At Canaveral National Seashore for example, almost 40 kilometers (24 miles) of undeveloped beach is home to more than 1,000 types of plants and more than 300 bird species.

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Take a ride with Mikah

Mikah, who’s on a mission to visit all of the more than 400 sites within the National Park Service (NPS), found it fascinating that Canaveral National Seashore makes up the largest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida’s East Coast.

“As somebody who drove down the entire coastline, I can tell you that there has been development along the entire Florida coast, such that everywhere either has a house or a condo or a hotel, and this is one stretch where you can go and there is no development,” he said.

That lack of development attracts many locals and tourists, who come to enjoy nature in its most primitive form. And without the pollutants that normally result from development, the water is cleaner too, Mikah noted. That, in turn, attracts fish… and fishermen.

This flock of coots is just a fraction of the waterfowl that spend the winter at Canaveral National Seashore and the adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
This flock of coots is just a fraction of the waterfowl that spend the winter at Canaveral National Seashore and the adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. VOA

Walking along the dunes during his recent visit, he noted how the waters were “just inundated with fishermen… as far as the eye can see… even though it was a weekday.”

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Ancient landscapes

At the NPS sister park, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Mikah and his companion Andy Waldron traveled along the Black Point Wildlife Drive around several shallow marsh impoundments and through pine flatwoods.

Many say no animal better represents Florida than the American alligator. They are one of the main attractions at the Canaveral National Seashore.
Many say no animal better represents Florida than the American alligator. They are one of the main attractions at the Canaveral National Seashore. VOA

“We saw a number of alligators of all sizes and sorts,” Mikah explained. “And a bunch of birds, not just hanging out but actively running across the water and dipping their heads in and eating and catching fish,” he added.

He also saw a wild boar in the distance, wading through the shallow water, but Mikah was most impressed with the ‘gators living so close to the ocean.

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“It was very interesting the ecosystems that they live in, the natural versus salt water,” he remarked. “And just seeing a live ‘gator in the wild was so cool because so often we see them in zoos or contained areas.”

Mikah and Andy strolled along a wooded trail and a pristine, undeveloped shoreline, much like the first natives and early settlers must have done. They stayed just a short while, but long enough to imagine just how those lands and waterscapes must have seemed to all who came before them not too long ago.

Mikah invites you to learn more about his travels in Florida and all across America by visiting his website, Facebook and Instagram. natoi. (VOA)

Next Story

“It Is A More Rugged Surface Than We Predicted,” NASA’s Plan to Scoop Up Dirt from Asteroid Hits Complication

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on another asteroid in February, also on a mission to collect material. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission.

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NASA
This artist's rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. VOA

NASA’s plan to scoop up dirt and gravel from an asteroid has hit a snag, but scientists say they can overcome it.

The asteroid Bennu was thought to have wide, open areas suitable for the task. But a recently arrived spacecraft revealed the asteroid is covered with boulders and there don’t seem to be any big, flat spots that could be used to grab samples.

In a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature, scientists say they plan to take a closer look at a few smaller areas that might work. They said sampling from those spots poses “a substantial challenge.”

“But I am confident this team is up to that substantial challenge,” the project’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

The spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, is scheduled to descend close to the surface in the summer of 2020. It will extend a robot arm to pick up the sample, which will be returned to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft began orbiting Bennu at the end of last year, after spending two years chasing down the space rock.

FILE - This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu.
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. VOA

When the mission was planned, scientists were aiming to take dirt and gravel from an area measuring at least 55 yards (50 meters) in diameter that was free of boulders or steep slopes, which would pose a hazard.

“It is a more rugged surface than we predicted,” said Lauretta, of the University of Arizona in Tucson and one of the paper’s authors. But he said he believed a sample could still be collected.

NASA project manager Rich Burns said a spot will be chosen this summer and the setback won’t delay the sampling.

Patrick Taylor, who studies asteroids at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston but didn’t participate in the spacecraft mission, noted in a telephone interview that the spacecraft was evidently maneuvering more accurately and precisely than had been expected.

“That gives me confidence they will be able to attempt a sample acquisition,” he said.

NASA
NASA project manager Rich Burns said a spot will be chosen this summer and the setback won’t delay the sampling. VOA

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Bennu is 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) from Earth. It’s estimated to be just over 1,600 feet (500 meters) across and is the smallest celestial body ever orbited by a spacecraft.

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on another asteroid in February, also on a mission to collect material. Japan managed to return some tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission. (VOA)