Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

Titusville, Florida – December 18, 2013

Today we decided to go to the Kennedy Space Center. We departed the condo at about 09:00. Most of the journey of 72-miles was on toll road 528, which included five toll booths for a total charge of $5.25. We arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at about 10:30. The last portion of our drive took us across the Indian River. We had to stop because it is a drawbridge. There was a sloop passing, so the drawbridge was up.
I had purchased our $50 tickets on the internet. That offered the option of picking up the tickets at the will-call window. That worked out without a hitch. While the entrance fee may sound expensive, there were a lot of things included in the price; a Kennedy Space Center bus tour; “Hubble 3D” at the IMAX2 theater; “Space Station 3D” at the IMAX2 theater; Astronaut Encounter theater; Mission Status Live Updates; Exploration Space, Explorers Wanted; and the Shuttle Launch Experience. We only had time to do three of those.

The fountain at the entry to the Kennedy Space Center.
The queue for tickets to get into the Kennedy Space Center.
The rocket garden.
Astronaut Hillary giving the thumbs up.
The Air Force ROTC choir in front of the Christmas tree.
Beyond the plaza, one can see the booster rockets for the space shuttle program.
The space shuttle booster rockets just beyond the Orbit Cafe.

We opted to do the bus tour first. We walked to the staging area and got right on a bus. As soon as it was full, the bus departed.

A couple of tourists on the bus ride.

From the bus window, we could see the tall vehicle assembly building. Even though we were some five miles away, the 450-foot tall structure still appeared massive. As we neared the building, the driver turned east on the road that passes in front of the building. It is at that distance that one genuinely gets an idea of the enormity of the building.

The vehicle assembly building.

Continuing east, we drove next to the crawler-transporter path. The crawler is a massive piece of equipment that moves the space vehicle from the vehicle assembly building to the launch complex. The distance traveled is around three miles. When it is loaded, the crawler moves at one mile per hour, consuming fuel at a rate of 32 feet per gallon.

A rocket crawler parked and waiting for the next mission.

The bus continued easterly toward LC-39A. That is the launch complex from which the space shuttles were launched. From there we drove in a more northerly direction toward LC-39B. That launch complex is being revamped and readied for future missions to the moon.

Passing by LC 39A.

The bus looped back to the vehicle assembly building. On the main road, we again headed north to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. There we got off the bus and waited to enter the building. When the doors opened, we went into a large open gallery. On one wall was a painting of a vehicle on the launch pad. On an adjoining wall were three large screens. A short program presented the history of our space program.

The sign above the entrance to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
Future astronaut ready to launch?
Two future astronauts ready to launch?

After the program, another set of doors opened. We walked into an area overlooking a control center that was the actual control center used for the Apollo VII launch. This area had stadium seating. We sat and watched a re-enactment of the final three minutes before liftoff. It was quite moving and exciting.

Apollo VIII control room.
The Apollo VIII control room at launch.
An illuminated checklist.

After the re-enactment, yet another set of doors opened. These led into the central portion of the structure which houses a 363 foot, three-stage Saturn V rocket. The size of this machine is staggering.
One enters the building at the engine end of the rocket. Five colossal rocket engines are facing the viewer. After taking photos, one can walk the entire length under the missile since it is lying on its side. Off on either side of the rocket are exhibits, restrooms, and a cafe. That is where we had lunch.

The Saturn V engines are massive.

Insignia on the side of the Saturn V rocket.
A lunar rover, but not THE lunar rover.
A lunar landing module.
The command module engine.
A command module.
A full length view of the Saturn V.
An Apollo capsule.
The Apollo test supervisor’s logbook.

After completing the self-guided tour, one has to go through the gift shop (of course) to exit the building. After exiting, one boards the bus for the return trip to the visitor center. Part of the drive took us along the Atlantic Ocean. The Kennedy Space Center has 43 miles of virtually untouched beach.

The Right Stuff.

Returning to the Visitor Center, we were dropped off near the space shuttle Atlantis building. Upon entering, one winds along a ramp that ends at a set of doors on the second floor. When the doors opened, we all filed into a large gallery, much like the one at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Thankfully at the rear of the gallery, there was one long bench. We made our way there and sat down.

Dwarfed by the space shuttle booster rocket.
Waiting to see the space shuttle Atlantis.

The presentation in this gallery focused on the development of the space shuttle. I thought it was an interesting film. Once it was complete, a set of doors under the screen opened. We filed into a large room that had screen material on every surface. There was no seating.
As the film began, we found we were witnessing a space shuttle launch. At times, because of the motion on the film, it was difficult to stand.

Tourists viewing a film before entering the space shuttle Atlantis exhibit.

At the end of the film, the main screen raised, leaving us facing the nose of Atlantis. That was an awe-inspiring sight, seeing the shuttle suspended at an angle. From the second floor, we could see the cockpit area and the cargo area. From the ground floor, one could see the heat shield tiles. There were numerous interactive exhibits too.

The nose of space shuttle Atlantis.
The nose of space shuttle Atlantis from the side.
A panorama of the cargo bay of space shuttle Atlantis.
People marveling at space shuttle Atlantis.
There’s that astronaut chica again…
The heat shield tiles on the underside of Atlantis.
Space station maze.
Space station maze II.

We noticed it was 14:45. The next IMAX movie was set to begin at 15:00. We dashed to the IMAX theater. As we entered the theater, we picked up 3D glasses. I must admit I had never previously seen a 3D movie.
The movie we watched was “Space Station.” It was fascinating. The 3D effect made it all the more exciting and realistic.
After the movie, we waited near the gift shop while Tyler and Hillary went to the Shuttle Launch Experience. After that, we made our way back to the condo. We were tired when we got back, so we opted to order Chinese food. That topped the day off well.

The rocket garden in the late afternoon.

Detail of the fountain at the entry to the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA decked out for Christmas.

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