Tuesday 11 June 2013

The Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Another Florida attraction that we visited on our recent holiday was the Kennedy Space Center. It's about an hour's drive from Orlando on the part of the coastline known as the Space Coast.

We arrived as it opened, and started our day exploring the Rocket Garden, an outdoor display of rockets and spacecraft. You can climb inside some of the some of the cramped capsules and see how little space the astronauts really had inside these rockets.

Family visit to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Then we caught a bus for a tour of the Kennedy Space Center complex. Buses leave every 15 minutes, and it's worth doing the tour early on before it gets too busy. Be aware that this tour will take you a couple of hours, make sure that you have everything you need with you before you get on the bus.

Bus tour at the Kennedy Space Center

First the bus takes you to the LC-39 Observation Gantry where you can view the space shuttle launch pads. On the way you pass the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building, Launch Control Center and the Crawler Transporter which transports spacecraft from the assembly building to the Launchpad. You can stop here for as long as you like to look around before you board another bus to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

Before entering the Apollo/Saturn V Center you first view a couple of presentations. One of these is the excellent simulated launch of Apollo 8, with some of the original equipment and audio from the launch control room. The countdown starts at T-3 minutes and the different areas of the room light up as each area joins in, then as the spaceship launches the room vibrates and the glass windows at the back of the room rattle.

In the spacious main building of the Apollo/Saturn V Center there are a number of large exhibits, including some unused Apollo modules and other exhibits related to the Apollo Program. The centrepiece is a majestic restored Saturn V launch vehicle. You can also touch a piece of moon rock and view a selection of space suits. We spent quite some time here looking around and stopped for a snack in the cafĂ©.

Kennedy Space Center, Florida

When we returned to the Visitor Complex it was the hottest part of the day and we were all flagging a little. We decided that it would be a good time to view one of the IMAX films, and we chose the Space Station 3D film. It was a fascinating look inside the space station and the daily lives of the astronauts that lived there in the early days. It was very interesting, although Harry was starting to get a little twitchy by the end (we left Mia outside with Grandma, napping in the pushchair!).

We also had a look around a couple of the exhibitions - Exploration Space with plenty of interactive elements and Early Space Exploration with artifacts from the first manned spaceflights.

All of this took us a lot longer than we expected, and almost before we knew it we found that it was the end of the day. There were some areas that we didn't have time to see, including the US Astronaut Hall of Fame which is located a few miles down the road and included with general admission. I think that in order to see everything in a day you really need to make sure that you make a plan and keep to it.

If you are visiting with young children, be aware that it can be a long, hot day and that your children will need to have the patience to sit still through the bus tour and several theatrical presentations. I'd probably recommend skipping the IMAX film with young children too as it takes up quite a large part of the day and in my experience they just can't keep still for that long! It is a great place to take young children and it has certainly fostered my son's interest in all things space.

Disclaimer - We received two adult press tickets in return for a review of the Kennedy Space Center, we purchased tickets for the rest of our party.

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