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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
If you would like to take some time away from the theme parks of Orlando, an interesting alternative is Kennedy Space Center.
Situated on Florida’s east coast, Kennedy Space Center is located about fifty minutes from Orlando’s theme parks.
What may not be well known is that the centre has had a number of names over its life. In November 1963 President Johnson named it the John F Kennedy Space Center. In the spring of 1964 the name was changed to Cape Kennedy.
In 1973 the Florida Governor authorised a Florida Statute requiring that Cape Kennedy be renamed Cape Canaveral on all State of Florida official documents and maps. Quite confusing for the casual visitor to the area!
However, most visitors will forever remember Cape Kennedy as the launch point for NASA’s highly successful lunar missions, which landed astronaut Neil Armstrong on the moon in July 1969. In fact part of the centre tour takes in launch pad 39A where the Apollo 11 mission commenced.
The best way to see the centre is to book one of the regular bus tours, which take around two to two and a half hours to complete. This will not only ensure that all the most interesting areas are visited, but the tour also includes secure areas where unaccompanied visitors are not permitted. The tours commence at 10. 00am and run every fifteen minutes until 2. 45pm.
Amongst the highlights of the tours are:
The original NASA launch sites of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.
The Air Force Space and Missile Museum, where it is possible to see again the launch of America’s first satellite. Additional stops are made at the launch complex where Alan Shepard lifted off on America’s first human space flight, plus the Apollo Launch Pad 34, which is the site of the tragic Apollo 1 fire. The tour finishes at the Apollo / Saturn V centre.
Climbing aboard the International Space Station through use of a full-scale mock-up of the Habitation Module, and seeing the facilities that space station crew members will use for living, sleeping and working quarters.
Visiting the 60-foot-tall Launch Complex 39 Observation Gantry which provides an amazing 360 degrees panorama of the two enormous Launch Pads, 39A and 39B. The view also includes the Launch Control Centre, the massive crawlerway and the Vehicle Assembly Building (which can be seen for miles around! ). A theatre presentation and interactive room at the gantry’s base give you a behind-the-scenes briefing on what it takes to launch and land every NASA Space Shuttle.
Finally, not to be missed are the two giant IMAX screens at the centre. This experience actually makes you feel as though you are part of the filming!
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