Recently we spent the day revisiting the Kennedy Space Center. Now having lived in Florida for over 20 years I’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center a few times, not too many but a few.
One of my fondest memories of a trip to the Space Center is the first time I ever tasted Space Dots, they’re called Dippin Dots in the rest of the world but here on Kennedy that’s the name they go by, tho’ it can’t the only place. I think the first flavor I had was mint chocolate, it was very good. They have been dubbed the “Coldest ice cream of the word” because they are made using Cryogenic technology, think people freezing themselves to be thawed at a later date, they come out of this process extremely frozen and pearl shaped, which makes for a lump in your mouth as they melt there. I’ve since found out that Space dots technology comes from India and that this style of ice cream is only available in select countries so if you ever get a chance to taste this unique twist on ice cream, treat yourself its quite an experience.
When you come to visitor the historical site at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex there are three guided tours you can take, you can also wander around a your leisure. I recommend you do both take one of the tours and then walk around on your own. The first tour choice is the NASA Up-Close tour here you get the chance to tour NASA’s launch and landing facilities. As you tour you’ll find out where the space shuttle is assembled and launched, see how it lands and see where the astronaut crews prepare and train. This guided tour takes you through NASA’s Space Shuttle program. I’ve been on the beach as a shuttle is launching and it’s spectacular, what’s really great is that after you’ve taken the NASA Up-Close tour you’ve seen and really appreciate just how much goes go into get one of those things off the ground and back again.
The next guided tour the NASA Cape Canaveral: Then & Now, as the name suggests, is a look back at the glory days of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. You get to see the Apollo Launch Pad 34, which was the site of the tragic Apollo 1 fire. You also get to relive the launch of America’s first satellite when you tour the Air Force Space & Missile Museum and see where Alan Shepard lifted off on America’s first human spaceflight.
The last tour, the only free one, is the Kennedy Space Center Tour. You get to tour the International Space Station Center, LC 39 Observation Gantry, and the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Keep in mind when you make plans to go to visit the Kennedy Space Center that it is a working space launch facility, check tour schedules to make sure they are running, sometimes they get changed due to ‘operational requirements’.
At the Space Center you can walk around outside at your leisure and see the rockets on display, they call it the rocket garden which is pretty funny considering how tall these things are. Now when I say you get to tour them I mean you can crawl into some of them and take a picture, believe me I have more that a few shots of me hanging out of one space capsule or another.
Columbia was the first Space Shuttle mission and it took off on April 12, 1981. The Kennedy Space Center’s two launch pads and there have been over 100 launches from them. Having lived on the space coast since the first shuttled you’d think I’d be over it by now and not care any more but I’ll tell you when they launch a shuttle the Space Coast stops, people pull over on bridges, come out of office buildings and vacate stores and that’s just the locals. Finally thanks to the Shuttle Launch Experience now open at the Kennedy Space Center we get a chance to feel what it’s like to be on one of those bad boys and let me just say, it’s thrilling. The countdown starts the fuel ignites, the seats shake and off we go, this is a ‘must do’ when you visit.
Another spectacular thing at the Space Center is their fabulous IMAX movie theater. Two five-story screens and realistic 3-D special effects make spaceflight come alive. They have actual footage shot by astronauts during actual missions, I’ve seen several movies there and you do feel like you could reach out and touch whatever it is you’re watching. They change the movies out so even if you visit more than once it’s doubtful you’ll see the same one twice.
They also have interactive simulators that make it all feel real too and the Astronaut Training Experience let’s you spend a day or a half day going through the training an actual Astronaut would endure; this is a special favorite of the kids, but the whole family can do it together.
If you visit the Kennedy Space Center on the right day you might even get to meet a real live astronaut or watch and actual launch from the visitors viewing area. They are always having special ceremonies there or dedicating something, no matter if there is something special going on or not do yourself a favor if you ever even get close to the Space Coast make plans to come see the Kennedy Space Center. I’ve been there half a dozen times and can’t wait to go back, it’s like watching a favorite movie for the umpteenth time, you always see something you didn’t see before.
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