The 200 square mile Kennedy Space Cente is part of Florida's "Space Coast", midway between Jacksonville and Miami, and 35 miles east of Orlando. Communities here include Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers many exhibits and experiences for the public; visitors also take a bus tour through restricted areas used by NASA for space launches.
The Center is named for the President who committed the US to "race to the moon" in 1962:
"We to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."
By 1969, the moon race was over, but space exploration continues at the Kennedy Space Center
Family Visits to the Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center is entirely oriented to family visits, and intended to thrill and inspire kids with the history of the space program and the vision of space exploration.
A visit to the Kennedy Space Center has two aspects:
- a chance to see the real-life place where the Apollo moon missions were launched, and where space shuttles and other missions are launched today
- an excellent science-museum type of experience
Exhibits are designed to entertain as well as to educate: there are hands-on experiences, film presentations, two I-Max theaters, and several simulator "rides".
Of course, the optimal visit would include viewing an actual
Shuttle Launch: various types of launches occur every few months. Call 321-867-4636 for anticipated launch dates-- or check the Kennedy Space Center site. (Note, however, that dates often get changed at the last minute.)
Tips for Visiting
Allow a full day to visit the vast Kennedy Space Center.
Much of your time will be taken up with a 2-1/2 hour guided bus Tour of Restricted Areas that takes you past: two giant launch pads; the Vehicle Assembly Building, the largest building in the world; the 3-1/2 mile crushed-rock "crawlerway" along which the Space Shuttle gets hauled to the launch pad; the gargantuan "crawlers" that do the hauling (and crawl at about one mile an hour, traveling only 35 feet per gallon of gas.)
Buses depart from the Visitor Complex -- your point of entry to the Kennedy Space Center-- every 15 minutes. The Tour includes a stop at Launch Complex 30 Observation Gantry, and the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
You'll want to get off the bus and spend a few hours in the Apollo/Saturn V Center (which has a cafeteria, one of several restaurants on-site.) In this Center is a fully restored 363-foot Saturn moon rocket- click above for photo. Kids will wonder if this giant rocket is "real": it is authentic, but is made up of stages for Apollo missions that were cancelled.
Also at the Apollo/Saturn V Center are the Lunar Surface Theater and the Firing Room Theater, which bring to life dramatic milestones in the Apollo moon landing series.
Meanwhile, at the Visitor Complex itself, there's lots to see and do:
- two I-Max Theaters
- starting May 2007: a $60M "Shuttle Launch Experience" attraction
- Children's Play Dome
- a replica of a NASA shuttle orbiter -- you can tour inside
- giant gift store, with space-themed Lego, K'nex, and lots, lots more
- Rocket Garden
Also: six miles north of the Visitor Complex, The Astronaut Hall of Fame has brief simulator "training rides," such as a simulated mission to Mars: can't compete with Disney World's MissionSpace but still this area is fun for kids and gives them a chance to run around and try different spacey stuff.
Check for programs such as "Lunch with an Astronaut", and "Astronaut Training Experience", where kids can train like an astronaut.
*Always check destination websites for updates!
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