Kennedy Space Center – On The Road To Florida

 

Rocket garden

Rocket garden

Have you ever seen something that caught you by surprise but then realized that you actually did know about it but had just forgotten? Some might consider this a sign of age, but I prefer to think that I just need to have some more personal RAM installed…

We arrived in Cocoa Beach on Saturday, found the RV park and got set up. Next was an excursion to Publix, my go-to place in Florida, to pick up a few things. The rest of the afternoon was partially spent lolling (I like that word) in the pool. The park was not at all crowded and we had the pool to ourselves.

After nearly an hour, though, we could see approaching young children in the near distance and grabbed our shoes and towels and headed back to the RV. Not a fan of loud kids splashing everything within a thirty-foot arc.

After propping our feet up and enjoying some adult beverages in the waning warm afternoon, I threw some marinated steaks on the grill, baked some potatoes and tossed a salad. We slept well Saturday night.

When I read about Kennedy Space Center online, I was jarred by the admission price – $50 per person. At first I thought we’d just skip it, but then decided that since we were there I’d bite the bullet and pay the price. At least at the ticket window a Senior Discount was offered – $4 – so that softened the blow just a little.

Upon entering the facility, just ahead we saw the Rocket Garden where there are seven early Redstone, Titan and Atlas rockets standing as if waiting to launch. Ahead to the right was the Imax theater. Two movies were being shown, and we were just in time for “Space Station 3D.”

 

 

Airstream motorhome used to carry astronauts to the launch pad

Airstream motorhome used to carry astronauts to the launch pad

A word about the glasses they passed out: the whole point to Imax is the giant screen that looms several stories high. While the 3D was good, the glasses had little bitty lenses that didn’t allow for the full-screen experience. I found myself moving my head around to different spots on the screen but unable to take it all in at once. Maybe they should consider the bid from the next to lowest, or third to lowest supplier, and spring for some bigger glasses. Just sayin’…

The images in space were amazing, but tethering to the Shuttle while floating around out there didn’t look real appealing. You got up close and personal with the Shuttle astronauts, and it was fun watching them sailing weightless through the small passageways in the space station. The only thing I would have done differently is gotten someone other than Tom Cruise to narrate it. Yawn.

 

Marble sphere

Marble sphere

From the Imax, we walked to Constellation Sphere Plaza where a round ball, which appeared to be made of marble and at least six feet in diameter, floated on a thin cushion of water. Engraved all over the surface of the sphere were stars and constellations, some I swear could have been just made up words from the looks of them. With a little effort one could get the ball rotating on its cushion of water and watch various constellations rotate by.

Up a ways from this area is the Astronaut Memorial, a large mirror-like edifice with the names of astronauts who died in pursuit of space exploration. Interestingly, this exhibit was nearly deserted.

 

Replica shuttle tank and boosters

Replica shuttle tank and boosters

I had noticed a reproduction of the shuttle fuel tank and rockets standing in front of a building announcing the Space Shuttle Atlantis and Space Launch Experience.

Remember, at the beginning of this piece, I mentioned about being surprised by something, only to realize that you had simply forgotten that you knew about it? Well, in hindsight I remember reading how, when the shuttles were being retired, one was going to the Kennedy Space Center for display. But I’d utterly forgotten that. So, when we climbed up a circular ramp to see the Space Launch Experience, I was fat, dumb and happy, not knowing what was coming.

The crowd was let in to a large room to watch a dramatized history of the origin of the shuttle program. When that video ended, we all marched forward into another big room where launch images were flashed in front on a screen and on the sides of the room. This one was about Atlantis and her missions. Still clueless.

 

Atlantis

Atlantis

As this video ended, the screen became opaque and began to rise. And there in this cavernous area was the shuttle Atlantis, mounted at an angle with the cargo bay doors open and the articulating arm extended. I was awestruck. And almost immediately I realized that I had read about this exhibit a few months back, but had simply forgotten. Hence my surprise, and then realization. That experience alone would have been worth the price of admission.

Atlantis cargo bay forward

Atlantis cargo bay forward

 

The place is very family friendly, and there are plenty of food places, as well as souvenir shops. Because of the government shutdown, the shuttle buses to the launch center were not running. For an extra charge, that would have been interesting.

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4 Comments

  1. Wendy Harrington
    Oct 17, 2013

    Well that was a fun trip to take (vicariously). We’ll have to do this jaunt someday–and I expect I, too, will be surprised at what we discover at the space shuttle exhibit, haha! Did you get to see insider the Airstream at all? I wondered if they’d outfitted it in any special way for them… Guess it’s time to go see the movie getting all the great reviews, Gravity, now that space is top of mind again. Thanks for the tour!

    • Barry
      Oct 17, 2013

      Wendy, The Airstream was closed up so we couldn’t see inside. If it’d been me heading for a wild ride atop the lowest bid, it would have had a well-stocked bar! Glad you enjoyed the piece. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Tollan Wade
    Oct 17, 2013

    A great piece of Blogging Mr. Barry. I enjoyed your piece as we have visited the Space Center, but before the new exhibit.
    And there is nothing wrong with screaming kids…..if you add a few more adult beverages to your diet!

    • Barry
      Oct 17, 2013

      Tollan, I’d rather take the adult beverages and leave the kids, screaming or otherwise… harumph, harumph. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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