Kennedy Space Center

Weekend Getaways

by Amy S. Maclsaac, Esq

At 5:12am on April 5th, a SpaceX Falcon launched, carrying a batch of Starlink satellites to space. We were able to see the rocket during our visit to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) the day prior to launch. After visiting the KSC, I have a new interest and appreciation for our space program. The KSC is located on Merritt Island and is about an hour and a half drive from Orlando and the Most Magical Place on Earth. It is definitely worth a visit during your next trip to the Sunshine State.

Tickets price begin at about $80 per person and run to about $170 if you are looking for additional experiences. Parking was $10. Overall, our trip to the KSC was the least expensive during our Orlando vacation this year. KSC is open from 9am-5pm every day and you can tour the entire center in one day if you get there early!

By way of background, the KSC was established in 1962 and has been NASA’s primary launch center since 1968. Launch operations for the Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle programs were carried out from KSC. Since 2010, the center has become a multi-user spaceport through industry partnerships with Blue Origin, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc. There are about 700 facilities and buildings in the center’s 144,000 acres. Although most of the center grounds are off-limits to visitors, there is plenty to see and experience.

Kennedy Space Center Apollo

Since the buildings are spread out, regular admission includes a bus tour that takes visitors around the center. I highly recommend the bus tour – the tour guides are very knowledgeable and are very engaging. Our tour guide pointed out an eagle nest along the main road of the center – we learned that the hatching and development of the eaglets has been a source of great interest to all of the center staff. We first passed the most well-known building at the center – the VAB or Vehicle Assembly Building. It is the largest singlestory building in the world and is the eighth largest building in the world by volume. The VAB was built for vertical assembly of spacecraft. There are four entries to the bays inside the building, which are the four largest doors in the world. According to our tour guide, it takes 45 minutes for each door to open completely. The bus tour includes a stop at the Apollo/Saturn V Center which includes a tour of the actual command center used for the Apollo missions in addition to displays of the real Apollo spacecrafts. This was a great place to begin our visit since the center explains the early days of space exploration, which included many setbacks.

After the bus tour, we headed to the centerpiece of the KSC, the Atlantis. Several short videos explain the history of the shuttle program. Our kids were able to take part in a simulation of a shuttle launch that is open to all. They all gave it a thumbs up! There are more than 60 interactive displays and exhibits to allow kids (and adults) to simulate shuttle launch, docketing with the ISS (International Space Station) and overall shuttle operations. The highlight, of course, is the actual Atlantis Shuttle. Atlantis joined the fleet in 1985 and made 33 trips, completing over 125 million miles and 307 days in space. It is truly awe inspiring! Visitors can view the shuttle from both the top and bottom since it is suspended in the center of the building. There is also a replica of the Hubble Space Telescope on display. The “Forever Remembered” hall is a reminder of those who died in the pursuit of space exploration in both the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. Personal mementos from each of the lost astronauts are displayed – it is both moving and sad. There is another memorial to all fallen astronauts outside at the Space Mirror Memorial.

After a quick stop for lunch (there are several places to eat at the KSC), we headed to the Astronauts Hall of Fame building. We were able to see two very well-made videos about some of the astronauts and their experiences on various missions. Well-known astronauts like Jim Lovell, Alan Shephard and Buzz Aldrin are prominently featured. Just outside of the Hall of Fame is the Rocket Garden, a display of full-scale original and replica rockets used by NASA over the years.

Kennedy Space Center

The KSC is very kid-friendly, including an indoor play area with all things space-related called Planet Play. There are also several exhibits with interactive displays about NASA’s new Artemis program – the next generation of space exploration to both the Moon and Mars. Excellent interactive displays include the Mars Rover vehicles and NASA’s plans to send humans to Mars in the future.

You can purchase additional experiences that are not included in the regular admission fee. The most popular is the chat with an astronaut experience. Although we did not choose this option, several other visitors recommended it!

The KSC allows visitors get an up close and personal look at America’s space program from the Apollo program, to the Shuttles, to NASA’s current Artemis spacecraft. Our visit was fun and educational! I highly recommend a visit to the Kennedy Space Center! Up next, we’re off to Universal and Sea World!

Before we were yours. Book reviewLaura Sutnick Esq BCBA President