November 5th, 2014
Most young people dream of becoming an astronaut before they realise the qualifications and training necessary to have this chance. As the majority of people do not make it into orbit, the next best thing for any space enthusiast is visiting the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. I visited in 2007 as a pit stop while travelling from Miami up to Orlando. It was a 45 minute detour from our route but I thoroughly enjoyed the day out. It should be noted that the visitors centre is only accessible by car because there are no public transport links.
Once at the complex there are numerous activities, shows and tours to keep you occupied. It is best to plan your day well, especially if it is busy to ensure you fit everything in. The first thing I did was to jump on the next available tour bus. There are a couple of routes you can take depending on what you want to see, but as I thought time was on my side I went for the whole lot.
The first stop was to the launch pad view point. The bus takes you via the rocket construction building where the rockets are built or repaired before launch. I was lucky enough to see the enormous mobile platform which takes the rockets to the launch area, and also a rare viewing of a rocket actually on the pad ready for a mission in the coming week. From the lookout point you can see the launch pad even though it is still a fair distance away and you can also see across to Cape Canaveral where launches used to take place. There are coin operated binoculars on the tower.
The next stop were the labs to see where parts of the International Space Station were being created for the imminent launch. From the overhead walkway, you can see scientists working below on the new additions to the Space Station and the next experiments to be taken up. Also on display are examples of the normal amenities on board the space station such as the living quarters, labs, and of course the toilets. It is then only a short stop from there to numerous exhibitions about space travel through the ages. There is a show about the first moon landing, interesting artefacts and hands on attractions.
Once back at the main visitor complex there is still much to see and do. You can get on board a retired space shuttle and look at the cramped conditions astronauts live in for weeks at a time, and experience the closest thing to a real space launch. This simulator is a very popular new attraction and will get busy so make sure you leave plenty of time for this. There are also short movies showing at the 5 story iMax cinema which gives the viewing an extra edge. I have not mentioned all that is available as I did not get around the whole experience due to time constraints but a full day is needed. For more information please visit the Kennedy Space Centre website.
I think admission is a reasonable price as it is a whole day out and is one of the only places in the world to give you a working day insight into live space exploration programmes.
I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area because can you have lunch with an astronaut, see a rock from Mars, and board a space shuttle all in one day.