Exploring Space

During the husband’s business trip to Orlando, we tried to pack as much as possible into our three personal days. I’ve already reviewed our visits to Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which were fun, but also a little disappointing. However, we were both excited for our visit to Kennedy Space Center, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint in the least. In fact, the only issue we had with our visit was one of limited time.

We arrived just shortly after 9 a.m., when the gates open, and took a few pictures. This was a little difficult due to the extreme humidity. The lens of the camera would fog up just about as quickly as we could wipe it dry.

Since we had some time before the Shuttle Launch Experience opened or the tour buses began running, we walked through the Early Space Exploration exhibit. Lots of cool stuff to see and read, including the original Mercury mission control consoles.

We only got about halfway through before we needed to head over to the Shuttle Launch Experience, a shuttle launch simulator. I was hoping to get a little G-force  to smooth out some wrinkles, but that didn’t happen. However, it’s about as realistic as it can be without launching into space. They provide a lot of good information about the space shuttle program in a very engaging way.

Next on our itinerary was the Astronaut Encounter at 11 a.m. The only other time for the encounter was 3 p.m. and we wanted to see the Space Station 3D IMAX® film at that time. The astronaut for our encounter was Bob Springer. His 20 minute talk was very informative and entertaining. There was also a short period of Q&A before a photo op, which we skipped to jump on the next tour bus.

The tour buses run about every 15 minutes and take you away from the visitor complex and out to the Apollo/Saturn V Center and the LC-39 Observation Gantry. The bus drivers provide you with a little background and direct you to points of interest along the way.

See me (bottom, left of center) for scale.

Our first stop was the Apollo/Saturn V Center. You’re immersed in the culture of the mid-1960s prior to entering  mission control to watch the taped launch of Apollo 8. It was very cool! We exited mission control and entered a HUGE hanger that housed a real Saturn V rocket.  You know these rockets are large, but standing beside them you really understand just how large!

Next stop was the LC-39 Observation Gantry where you have a panoramic view of the space shuttle launch pads 39A and 39B. We also passed by the massive “crawler” that moved the shuttle to the launch pads.

Me inside a Mercury capsule

We headed back to the visitor complex, but arrived a little early to enter the IMAX® theater, so we opted to finish our tour of the Early Space Exploration exhibit and visit the Rocket Garden.  From the very small to the very large, all the rockets are on display. You can even climb into a Mercury capsule, if you’re not too big!

We were able to catch both Space Station 3D and Hubble 3D IMAX® films, which were filled to capacity. We waited too long to get in line for the Space Station film and had to sit a little too close. We didn’t make that mistake with the Hubble film.

There was more to see, but the complex was closing. We had a great experience and we hope we can go back someday to see the things we missed, as well as the new Atlantis exhibit set to open next summer 2013.