Orlando's Disney World offers the fantasy of "Tomorrowland", but the Florida Space Coast's Kennedy Space Center and Astronaut Hall of Fame, located less than an hour's drive away, let you experience 'the real thing'. It's where the dream of human space flight has actually been turned into reality, for it's the launch and landing site of the Space Shuttle, NASA's re-usable space transportation system. Here you can encounter towering launch pads, massive rockets, interactive exhibits, and a plethora of inspirational space program experiences.
Things To Do at the Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center offers a myriad of activities. You can visit the Launch Complex Observation Gantry, walk among the towering rockets located in the Rocket Garden, sit at a mission control console, talk to an astronaut, touch a piece of moon rock, climb aboard a life-size Space Shuttle mock-up, take a virtual moonwalk, experience a virtual reality flight trainer, and even take an interactive voyage through the cosmos (on "Mad Mission to Mars").
Special Interest Tours
Special Interest Tours provide an even more in-depth look at the facilities and include commentary by expert guides. For example, the Cape Canaveral: Then and Now Tour takes you into the Air Force Space and Missile Museum and on an exploration of the historic launch sites of the manned Mercury and Gemini programs and the present unmanned programs. The NASA Up Close Tour takes you by the immense Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Space Shuttle is actually assembled on a Mobile Launcher Platform, and right up to the actual launch pads themselves; this tour also includes a stop at the International Space Station Center, where you'll see replicas of a laboratory module, a habitation unit, and a Multi-Purpose Logistics Unit. And the ATX Astronaut Training Experience provides you with intense, exciting hands-on training, including an opportunity to take the helm in Mission Control, operate a full-scale shuttle mock-up, and experience the multi-axis trainer (which randomly spins and twirls you in multiple directions) and the 1/6th gravity chair (which incorporates springs and pulleys to give you the feeling of walking on the moon).
Dine With an Astronaut
The Space Center's "Lunch with an Astronaut" program, which includes an informative video, a meal, and an in-depth, personalized presentation by an astronaut, is yet another interesting way to find out more information.
Astronaut Hall of Fame
In the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, you'll see the largest collection of astronaut memorabilia ever assembled, and you'll learn about the achievements of such legendary astronauts as John Glenn, Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, and Neil Armstrong. You'll also get an interactive look into the life of an astronaut, including an opportunity to experience a g-force simulator ride and a sense of what it's like to spacewalk in lunar gravity conditions.
The IMAX theaters offer yet another way to experience the feeling of spaceflight - and some of this dramatic footage was actually filmed during missions. You'll learn even more about NASA's space program - and how space research can actually help to make our life on Earth better.
Space Center and Wildlife Refuge
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is huge (more than 140,000 acres), so be prepared to spend lots of time here. And the Center actually shares its property with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, so it's not uncommon to see some of Florida's rare, endangered species while in the area (in fact, it provides safe refuge for more endangered and threatened species than any other wildlife refuge in the U.S.!). Egrets, blue herons, pelicans, royal terns, and southern bald eagles are among the birds that you may see here - and the wildlife includes alligators, dolphins, and manatees.
Informative and Fascinating
The Kennedy Space Center is, indeed, a fascinating place to visit. It's the island home of both unique space program technology and incredible Florida wildlife. For more information, check out its web site: www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.