THE KENNEDY SPACE CENTER: THE GREATEST SPACE ADVENTURE ON EARTH
“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit”- Frank Borman
“The heroic spirit of these astronauts lives on in you, their stories tell the story of humanity: embracing the legendary in all of us”- James Lovell.
We had planned for months our visit to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral– one of Florida’s most popular tourist destinations- and it exceeded our expectations. Looking back to our visit I now understand why it is considered the “greatest space adventure on earth”.
Each year, more than 1 million guests from around the world explore the past, present, and future of America’s space program at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. We could only visit the KSC on a Sunday in August, but we were surprised as the crowds were not overwhelming.
The general admission ticket costs 50 US Dollars per adults and 40 for children (+ taxes) and includes different buildings and attractions: the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Shuttle Launch Experience, Apollo/Saturn V Center, Heroes & Legends featuring the US Astronaut Hall of Fame, 3D space films… There are many self-service restaurants and the largest retail store in the world devoted to space-themed merchandise. Parking fee 10 US Dollars per car.
The visitor complex opens daily at 9 am and offers a full day or more of fun, inspiring experiences, as there is a lot to see. Regrettably, for our first visit we had only one day, but with the help of the KSC’ online trip planner, we received the following 8-hour itinerary:
Heroes & Legends featuring the US Astronaut Hall of Fame (approx. 1 hour).
This was our first stop as this is what you first find when entering the KSC. Presented by Boeing it features the early years of the space program. There is a 4-D multisensory experience and the US Astronaut Hall of Fame, but what I enjoyed the most is that it explores the concept of heroism.
Children’s Play Dome (30 min).
This is an outdoor park that is really fun for young children! The kids loved everything there.
Rocket Garden (30min).
It is a popular outdoor garden that features 8 authentic rockets from the past.
Journey to Mars: Explores wanted (1 hour).
My kids favorite! They discover what’s next for NASA and felt part of the future of exciting possibilities at Journey to Mars. The main show, Explorers Wanted, runs twice an hour. I personally liked that it emphasizes that space exploration is not only about technology but especially about the people that make it possible.
Science on a Sphere (30 min): Beautiful! It is a giant 3D globe that projects data about Earth/Mars/the Moon etc. Its housed near the Imax movie.
Lunch at the Orbit Café (45 min). It was a nice caffee, with better than average amusement park foods, and not crowded. (They don’t allow you to bring food into the complex).
IMAX 3 D Space Film (1 hour):
It showcases 2 large format 3D motion pictures: Journey to Space 3D and Beautiful Planet 3D. We chose this second film that allows you to view Earth as only astronauts do- from space aboard the International Space Station. It is a breathtaking 3D documentary captured by astronauts and narrated by Jennifer Lawrence. I wish this film could be shown in all theaters around the world as it features the effects that humanity has had on our planet over time. We truly live in a magnificent planet and we must all take care of it!
Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour and Apollo/Saturn V Center (2 hours).
This is the only way to get a glimpse of the entire working spaceflight center. Bus departs every 15 minutes (The last bus departs at 3.30 so it is convenient to plan accordingly) bringing guests to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. You can only access this building (with information about all 17 Apollo missions) with the bus tour, so don’t skip it. At the Apollo/Saturn V Center, you can touch a moon rock, witness liftoff of Apollo and stand beneath the largest rocket ever flown… During the tour, the bus will travel past the Vehicle Assembly Building (massive!) but does not stop in this area. Our driver was really kind and provided us with a lot of additional information during our ride (we even got to see alligators!).
Space Shuttle Atlantis (1 hour). Truly impressive! You see the Atlantis as only astronauts have seen it before: with payload by doors open as if it were floating in space. There are also more than 60 exciting, educational touch-screen experiences and high tech simulators that invite all guests to “be the astronaut”. Our favorite attraction was the “Shuttle launch experience”, an all-too-real simulation that immerses visitor in a space shuttle launch. This experience lasts 5 minutes and is included with admission. Also, don’t miss the “Forever Remembered”, a permanent memorial designed to honor the crews of the Columbia and Challenger tragedies.
The complex also offers other extra activities with behind-the-scenes tours and special programs (not included in the general admission ticket): astronaut encounter, special interest bus tours, lunch with an astronaut, astronaut training experience, interactive play cosmic quest experience, official virtual reality experience with space visor and an educational resource center. You can find complete information at the KSC website.
I cannot recommend enough the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It was a stimulating and inspirational visit and I imagine many future astronauts are born as a result of visiting this center! If you are traveling to Florida soon, you must add it to your “must visit” list! You will not regret it, believe me!