19 Nov
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Tips for Visiting Kennedy Space Center

astronaut mural Kennedy Space Center

I recently finished reading “The Martian” by Andy Weir. I was skeptical I would enjoy a book heavy on science, space science at that, but I devoured it. The main character is compelling and funny, even in dire circumstances. There were science and math sections that didn’t hold my attention, but nothing that kept me from needing to continue with the story. I had to finish it. I was invested in Mark Watney. Those last 50 pages had me simultaneously wanting to read faster and put down the book to avoid what I feared might happen. I’m looking forward to watching the movie.

family with NASA sign at Kennedy Space Center

iconic NASA building Kennedy Space Center

All the Mars reading had me thinking about our epic summer road trip in June.  One of our stops was Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Mars was the buzzword of our visit. Everywhere we went someone was mentioning Mars. The moon was to my generation as Mars is to my children. Watching films on current NASA projects and future goals and listening to guides answer questions about the future of space exploration while at Kennedy Space Center seemed surreal. On more than one occasion I turned to Craig and whispered that I thought NASA had lost its mind, which is probably what people said in the 1960s. I’m too cautious for NASA.

rocket garden at Kennedy Space Center

teen sitting in a rocket capsule at Kennedy Space Center

One Christmas when I was in elementary school, I received an astronaut Barbie and became obsessed with going to the moon. My greatest wish was to attend Space Camp, and I lost count of the number of times I watched the 1986 movie, Space Camp. I never did make it to Alabama for camp, although there are adult and family camps, so never say never. Maybe for my 40th birthday? Visiting Kennedy Space Center with my children was the closest I’ve come to being an astronaut.

children sitting in a simulator at Kennedy Space Center

rocket stack at Atlantis exhibiti Kennedy Space Center

Admittedly, I didn’t have high expectations. I’d spent months planning our visit to Walt Disney World with its overabundance of available information and flashy marketing. Kennedy Space Center seemed lackluster in comparison until we arrived at Cape Canaveral.

photo of Atlantis show Kennedy Space Center

We spent a full-day at the visitor complex. If all you do while at Kennedy Space Center is the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, you will have received your money’s worth. We knew heading into the visit that Atlantis was somewhere on property. I was looking forward to being near an actual shuttle that orbited Earth and logged 125,935,769 space miles. Kennedy Space Center curators did not disappoint with Space Shuttle Atlantis. We entered a large building and headed up a ramp to where a nice gentlemen talked with us about Mars before ushering us into a large room for our experience to begin. Visitors watch a video about the creation of the space shuttle program and are then ushered into a second chamber with a large surround screen and smaller side screens where a movie plays about Atlantis. The end of the movie is perfectly well-done and had all six of us in awe as we entered the permanent home of Space Shuttle Atlantis.

space shuttle Atlantis on display at Kennedy Space Center

Space Shuttle Atlantis is suspended in a mammoth room. Visitors are able to walk around the entire shuttle and see where debris damaged the shuttle over its many years of service, while glimpsing inside the payload bay. It’s impressive. The building is full of simulators and interactive exhibits, 60 to be precise, to give visitors a chance to experience various activities astronauts must do while in space. You won’t run out of things to do. The Shuttle Launch Experience is near Atlantis and simulates a space launch. It’s intense, or so I was told. I didn’t actually do it. I probably would have made a poor astronaut.

man looking at spacesuits at Kennedy Space Center

inside Apollo/Saturn V building Kennedy Space Center

Moving along through the visitor complex, the bus tour takes visitors to the Apollo/Saturn V Center where a 363-foot Saturn V moon rocket is displayed. Our kids enjoyed seeing the different versions of space suits over the years and touching an actual moon rock. Standing under the largest rocket ever flown is humbling. The visit to Kennedy Space Center left me in awe of what people can do given resources, faith and determination. A bonus during the bus tour was spotting several alligators on the property.

family posing with largest rocket ever flown Kennedy Space Center

children inside rocket capsule at the rocket garden Kennedy Space Center

There’s an IMAX theatre, astronaut appearances and several other exhibits and shows (in multiple buildings). We finished our day at the outdoor Rocket Garden getting an idea of the cramped spaces astronauts have had to work in over the years. While I was nervous the kids would find Kennedy Space Center boring after visiting Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida, we all found it educational and entertaining. I would go back solely to spend more time at the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit again.


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