Our trip to Florida was a tale of two halves. With the frantic, thrill seeking and exhausting half over my arms were open for the part I’d been waiting for since I booked this holiday eight months ago. Our mini Florida road-trip…
Exploring NASA Kennedy Space Center with children
Cape Canaveral lies 47 miles east of Orlando. There resides a place my inner space geek has dreamt about visiting for decades – The Kennedy Space Center. After an hours drive we were walking through the entrance into the world of space travel. My smile at this stage resembled that of a cheshire cat.
Admission is $50 for adults, $40 for children and $10 parking costs. You can book tickets in advance, advisable if you want to experience specific in-depth bus tours or have lunch with an astronaut! We chose to just rock up and pay on the door.
The park comprises of three sections. The main complex, where we started with a 30 minutes guided tour of the Rocket Garden. Walking among towering rockets that tell the story of humankind’s quest for infinity and beyond.
We followed the footsteps across the very service arm that Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin walked along from the launch umbilical tower to the command module of Apollo 11. Next stop for them was the moon. The feeling of history in this place is immense and I was in my element.
Whilst the girls got a real taste of astronaut life in a replica command module by experiencing the cramped conditions the astronauts endure.
The main complex is also where the IMAX theatres show the Hubble 3D and Journey to space 3D films, each are an hour long. We unfortunately gave them a miss due to time constraints.
After the girls let off some steam in the children’s playspace dome we headed straight for lunch. The usual American fare of burgers, pizzas and heavily dressed salads are on offer. Expensive of course, but if you’ve travelled from Disney you’ll probably feel like you’re getting a bargain.
Before long we joined the queue to board the bus tours for the Apollo/Saturn V centre visit. It’s a two hour tour, included in the price of the admission. It makes stops at the NASA Causeway for views of the shuttle launch pads and the humongous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where the Saturn V rocket was assembled.
The photo does nothing for the scale of this colossus. It’s the largest single story building in the world and also boasts the largest doors in the world measuring a whooping 139 metres. Putting it into perspective that’s large enough to house the Statue of Liberty! And the bus we were sat in would happily drive along one of the stripes of the flag emblazoned on the facade.
After digesting the enormity of that particular structure the bus moved onto the Crawler-Transporter, a monster vehicle that transports the spacecraft from the assembly building…
…to the launch pad and the famous countdown clock for the NASA launches. Can you believe I failed to snap a picture of that?! Gutted.
Bus tour over, we were dropped off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. It’s dedicated to the Apollo program which ran from 1962 -1971 using Saturn V rockets to take man to the moon. Prior to entering you experience a simulated launch of Apollo 8 with original equipment and audio recordings from the launch room. It gives you a real sense of the tension, buzz and excitement in mission control during a launch.
The centrepiece is a fully restored Saturn V, the largest rocket EVER made. Hanging above us, it’s the length of a football field and fills the enormous room from end to end.
And if that wasn’t enough we still had the finale to see. Back in the main complex we headed straight for the Atlantis exhibition. Standing pride of place outside is a 184 foot tall replica of the space shuttle stack which includes the external tank and solid rocket boosters.
Once inside, we watched an introductory short film which was unexpectedly moving. It re-tells the story of NASA’s 30 year space shuttle program, how the space shuttle was conceived and the journey to make it a reality. At the end the doors open to reveal the majestic shuttle, and I have to say it literally had the hairs at the back of my neck stand on end.
Atlantis is stunning. You are filled with a sense of awe being so close to a historic craft and to have the chance to explore it. The sense of pride you feel walking around at what mankind can achieve is surprisingly overwhelming.
Whilst I was trying to control my emotions, the girls both enjoyed the hands on exhibits. Sitting in the cockpit and pushing all the buttons was a firm favourite.
There are dozens of multimedia presentations, displays and high-tech simulators to bring the iconic shuttle to life. You could easily spend more than a few hours in the exhibition. We didn’t manage to see it all and on our way out walked through a very moving and respectful exhibit to those who lost their lives on Discovery and Challenger.
Everyone goes to Florida to see a fake mouse. I think if you ever make it to the Sunshine State you should come and see at least once the place where the first moon missions left planet Earth. It’s such an inspirational place to visit and who knows if you have kids in tow, you might just be nurturing the next Tim Peake!
With so much to talk about you may have guessed this isn’t actually the end of my escapades in Florida. Check out the final leg of my journey here in exquisite Palm Beach where relaxation was the only thing on my mind. And if you want to catch up on my top tips of for Disney World you can find them in Part 1 and Part 2.
Which places have inspired you? Have you ever been to the Kennedy Space Center? If you’ve never been have I tempted you? Let me know in the comments box below.
Kennedy Space Center | SR 405 | Titusville | FL 32899 | USA
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