Pros: The New Space Shuttle launch. Interactive attraction
Cons: I didn't have nearly enough time. There's so much to see. That's a pro.
My wife and I had a seven hour launch window to get from our cruise ship, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Gem, and back with enough time to visit the Kennedy Space Center, our choice of excursion out of Port Canaveral. I have always followed the space program and have been intrigued by the thoughts of man traveling to the moon and beyond. My wife and I were very satisfied and thrilled with what we saw at the Kennedy Space Center yet, I long to see more.
Starting Our Excursion
Our visit started with a pick-up of passengers directly from Port Canaveral via a Kennedy Space Center bus. We boarded at about 10AM and were on the first bus out. Having already paid through the cruise ship shore excursions we were given tickets so we could walk right in for the self-guided tour of the Visitors Complex as soon as we arrived.
A Change In Plans
I found it interesting that the Kennedy Space Center rep that gave us some information on the bus during the twenty minute ride to the center stating we should immediately go to the bus tour and do the three stops that it comprises. That's what we were going to do but when we entered the Visitors Complex I asked for advice from a person behind the Information desk. She had a different idea and I'm happy we went with her thoughts.
She suggested going straight to the newest attraction in the complex the New Shuttle Launch Experience. She recommended going to the IMAX theater next to watch the 3-D film Space Station 3D . It was after those two stops that she recommended getting on the bus tour to see the actual grounds of the working space center. It was her suggestion to witness and feel what was actually happening now at the space program and center through the launch experience and the film regarding the International Space Center. It happened that we were at the spaces center just one week before the launch of the Endeavor that was to go to the International Space Station.
Update while writing this review...
...In the early morning (2:28AM) of March 11th '08, from the comfort of my home, I watched the launch of the Endeavor as it started its 16 day journey (A shuttle record) toward the International Space Station to complete its mission and return to earth safely. The launch was a success. Oh, how I wish I could see such an event live instead of from home 1,500 miles away. I intend to! Someday. Only two more years of the Shuttle program though.
So we did follow the itinerary of the gal at the information desk rather than the tour guide. She was right for a couple of reasons.
The first reason was that doing it in the order she stated did indeed bring the rest of the facility to life for me. The second reason is that I may have missed one or both attractions she suggested at the Visitors Complex because we would have spent more time on the bus tour. More on that later.
Doing Some of the Visitors Complex
We immediately made way for the New Shuttle Launch Experience. We had to use lockers for some personal gear and followed direction. It was amazing!! I really felt like I was being launched into space. I hope to expand on my experience in a review of just the new event. There's much to tell with a suggestion or two.
We then walked up the ramps and into an actual Shuttle that was next door. One gets a better appreciation of the the size and payload area when seeing it first hand.
I needed to make one more stop before making our way to the IMAX film that was scheduled about a half an hour later. I wanted to pay my respects at the 42-1/2' X 50' granite, Space Mirror Memorial that was built and dedicated to the 24 US astronauts that died in the space efforts. I also hope to expand on this experience in another review dedicated just to it, soon.
IMAXing Our Time
We had enough time to make a quick run through the nearby building to the IMAX featuring Exploration In the New Millennium. We really needed more time there but the IMAX film Space Station 3D was about to begin. It was a good one. It was all filmed in space in the International Space Station giving good understanding of life there and what is being accomplished. You can read more about it in the link to my review in the movie section of Epinions below.
Another film Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D was also playing that day. I had already viewed and reviewed it after seeing it in a museum on Long Island NY where I live, the Cradle of Aviation Museum. It too has an IMAX theatre. That review can be found below also.
After experiencing the new Launch and seeing a film dedicated to the International Space Center we were ready to take the tour to see the Endeavor as it was being prepared for launch just a week away.
Back On Tour
We boarded the buses after a bit of a wait and were taken to the LC-39 Observation Station where we were able to see the red top of the Saturn V rocket that was ready to carry the space shuttle Endeavor toward it's mission. Though the boosters rockets are reused, it's kinda sad to think that the huge rocket I saw standing there just last week is now gone. It is good however to know it launched seven astronauts toward their goal of the orbiting Space Station earlier this morning.
I failed to mention that we did a ride by the Vehicle Assembly Building that is touted as one of the largest in the world. It has an American Flag painted on it. One gets better scale of size when they know that the length of that flag is as long as the length of a football field!!
This observatory is three miles from the launch pad. There is another tour, (Up Close) that gets one closer still.
Buses were moving in a regulated period of time. We never had to wait too long after the initial line at the complex.
Our next stop was at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. It was there that we were able to appreciate the gigantic size of the Saturn V. It's huge as we stood underneath one handing in a horizontal position. In that building we did some interactive play with robotic ATVs on a moon-like landscape. We also saw a show with the lunar lander and much more. We could have spent even more time in there after spending an hour or so. There was much more to see and we never even made it to another stop the International Space Station Center.
We boarded another bus back to the Visitors Complex where my wife made a purchase at one of the many shops at the Kennedy Space Center for a souvenir t-shirt for me. Bless her. Just a note. items that I saw in some of the shops outside the complex were not available inside the complex. That was a downer for me. I was hoping to not have to shop in each attractions store wasting time. There was a set of patches I wanted to purchase. I am fortunate though in that I now see I can get them on-line via the Kennedy Space Center site.
Memories Of the First Days In Space
We had about ten or fifteen minutes to do a quick scout around before boarding our bus back to the cruise ship at 5PM. We walked among the tall hollow structures in the Rocket Garden. In doing so it reminded me of a plastic model kit I put together as a youngster. My parents gave to me. It was an assembly of the rockets the US was testing with while the program was in its infancy. This was about the time when Sputniks were traveling overhead and dogs and monkeys were making test runs into space and we were soon learning names like Yuri Gagarin, Allen Shepherd and John Glenn. President Kennedy was going to or just did make his challenge of a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
I wish I had that model now. I can still picture it though. I was about eleven or twelve years old at the time and it was on a shelf just under our living room window on the seventh floor of the NYC apartment building I lived in. I recall names like the Titan, Vanguard and Atlas missiles. I wonder what my thoughts would have been to then be able to beam down to the Kennedy Space Center through time and space and see the accomplishments man has made in space during the last 45 years since I was that child? Mmm, will there ever be a time when we can beam to anywhere?
I absolutely loved our visit to the Kennedy Space Center and look forward to returning so I can see what I missed this first visit and perhaps learn of more accomplishments made since then.
Two sites within the Kennedy Space Center
Shuttle Launch Experience
Space Mirror Memorial
LC-39 Observation Station
Apollo/Saturn V Center, Kennedy Space Center
The two IMAX films playing at the Kennedy Space Center
Space Station 3-D
Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon
The Norwegian Cruise Line, Gem The ship that took us to Port Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center