Recently Rachel and I were fortunate enough to make our way out to see what NASA has been up to at Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Centre (despite the difficulty in getting out here from Orlando – but more on that later). This is a huge space, and you may find that you don’t have time to do everything – here are some of the ‘must do’ parts when visiting:
The Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit is a great first stop for the day (or a good second if you are limited on time – do the bus tour first in that case). After having done 126 million miles of space travel, the actual shuttle is housed in a massive structure here for all to see. To actually get a glimpse of something like this is amazing, and learning about the struggles the shuttle teams went through to ensure that it was lightweight and re-usable are incredible to behold.
The exhibit area also encompasses many fun activities and informative areas. For example, you can crawl through a replica of the International Space Station, slide down from one level to another (you better believe we did this) like you were re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere in the shuttle, and play many games like spacewalking, and crane docking of the shuttle (seen in the picture below). This
area truly is one for kids (and the big kids like us), and you could find yourself in here for most of the day if you wanted to!
The next portion of this giant warehouse was to try out a shuttle launch experience in the simulator that NASA have set up here. Whilst lining up you are told about the training that future astronauts must go through, and how the upcoming simulation is one of the most realistic they have seen (don’t believe everything you hear). The ride itself was actually quite fun, with the entire shuttle going to 90 degrees and shaking, with an emphasis placed on educating everyone on how the final 10 seconds and first few minutes after a launch are so crucial to the flight crews survival.
With the majority of the Atlantis exhibit behind us, we next chose to take the bus tour out to the launch area, including the exhibit on the Saturn V rocket and Apollo missions. This is where you would head first if you were limited on time, as it takes a little while to get out here and is well worth seeing. On the way out, the guide will tell you about the massive assembly building – one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, and includes the largest painted flag (American of course) in the world at 22 stories tall.
We reached the exhibit a little way beyond the assembly building, and moved in to the massive warehouse storing the Saturn V rocket. Let us say right now, rockets are HUGE and we were both in awe at the size and length of this thing. It almost looked like they had built the exhibit and warehouse around it!
The other exciting part was looking at all of the Apollo missions and working out the first mission to make the moon (Apollo XI of course). We were also able to see and touch a real moon rock (older than most matter on Earth)!
Finally, we went outside to experience the viewing area for the shuttle launches. Low and behold – we saw an alligator that had made its way on to the shore to soak up the sunlight. It seemed like it had opened its mouth and posed just for us, almost looking fake except for the obvious movement as it took each breath.
This marked the end of our bus tour, and we made our way back to quickly make what would be the last of the ‘must-do’ activities – the IMAX theatre they have at the Kennedy Space Centre. There are two choices for films at the IMAX, and whilst we only saw one, we’ve heard that they are both great. We watched ‘A Beautiful Planet’, showing clips and photos taken from the International Space Station. The scenery of the earth is absolutely stunning, and you are taught about what humans need to do to keep our planet alive and flourishing.
This concluded our day at the Kennedy Space Centre, though some important information is the difficulty you face if you wish to visit here. Being over an hour away from central Orlando, the options are limited. Whilst we used the Grayline tour (link HERE) as it was convenient being with family members, this is not a very budget option for space-enthusiast backpackers. Here are some other options for visiting from Orlando:
- Rent a car – an obvious option but this can also be costly. Probably a good idea if you are in a group, though remember that parking at the facility costs $10
- Public transport – taking buses is not the easiest way to get to Kennedy Space Centre, though it can be done, and is probably the cheapest opotion you have available. You will firstly need to catch a service like Greyhound to Titusville, and from there either search for a local bus service (like SCAT), or catch an Uber to and from the centre. Do not bother with a taxi, they will be more expensive by far
- Shuttle service – there are many companies that offer a shuttle service (like Grayline) to the Kennedy Space Centre, though not all are affordable. Have a search around and compare quotes to find one that suits you.
If you do decide to make your way to the Kennedy Space Centre, we hope you enjoy your time there!