Step into the shoes of famous astronauts and have a blast at Kennedy Space Center.
Story by Rod Charles, Vacay.ca Editor
TITUSVILLE, FLORIDA — As we queued to enter the Atlantis display, one of the most poignant sentences on the wall was a quote from an engineer who helped build the shuttle.
‘Like Bolting A Butterfly To A Bullet’
He’s not kidding. For a wannabe space junkie like me the television is as close as I’m ever going to get to the life of a real astronaut, and that’s fine. It’s a different story when you’re at Kennedy Space Center. You are literally walking in the footprints of very brave people – Sally Ride, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong. Of course I can’t leave out our heroes, great Canadians like Roberta Bondar, Marc Garneau, Julie Payette and Chris Hadfield.
That sense of awe manifests itself as soon as you make the drive east past the Astronaut Hall of Fame & Museum and over the NASA Causeway toward the Vehicle Assembly Building. Built with more than 98,590 tons of steel and opened in the 1960s, the Vehicle Assembly Building and attached launch control center were first used during the Apollo program in 1966. Standing at more than 465 feet, the high bay doors on this building are the largest in the world and take 45 minutes to completely open and close.
You can’t look at these rockets, space ships and capsules without reminding yourself that people — very courageous people — had to risk everything to fly them. During our tour we saw a Saturn Rocket is on display as well, the vehicle that carried human beings to the moon. The one on display was never used because funding was cut before it could go into space. So it is a perfectly preserved rocket.
The newest and most popular attraction is the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit displayed with the Canadarm extended, ready for action. The shuttle is rotated fittingly at an angle that is also a countdown: 43.21 degrees. Before entering, visitors are shown a video presentation, which tells the story of the development of the space shuttle. Great place for pictures, and lots of interesting and educational activities for the kids.
As I stood beside Atlantis, or walked underneath a gigantic Saturn Rocket or saw the launch pads that have successfully launched space shuttle and Apollo missions – including a few that ended in tragedy – my respect only grew.
From one wannabe space junkie to another, trust me – your respect for these brave men and women will only grow as well.
MORE ABOUT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
You can’t just drive where you want. The Visitor Complex has tour buses that take visitors to locations on the grounds. The Kennedy Space Center Up-Close Tour & Visitor Complex Admission Ticket will cost you $79.50 (all dollar figures are U.S.) and includes admission, Shuttle Atlantis and the KSC Up-Close tour. The All-Access Pass for $111.29 also includes Lunch with an Astronaut and admission to the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Do everything in one day, or split your visit over two days within a seven-day period.
Address: FL 32899, United States
Phone: 1-866-737-5235 (toll free)
Hours: 9 am-5 pm daily
Admission: Prices begin at $50 (adults), $40 (children).