Kennedy Space Center – A Great Visit For Space Cadets and Wannabe Astronauts of All Ages

If you are of a certain age, the men who sat atop impossibly tall rockets and rode them into space came home as giants among us. Excellent books and films have leveraged this common awe in the decades since the early 1960s, but seeing the rockets and exhibitions at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex makes it all the more real.

The visit to KSC includes two different locations. At the first stop, you encounter attractions like The Deep Space Launch Complex® and Rocket Garden.

Walking among the latter is humbling, not only do these cylinders stretch incredibly high, you’re able to climb into the space capsules of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The incredibly cramped quarters gives you yet further amazement at the stamina of the astronauts.

I don’t recall the exact the comparison, but it is something along the lines of the early space capsules from the 1960s had about as much computing power as my Dad’s 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. The actual space capsules included a window, which was a severe bone of contention among the first astronauts. Understandably, these astronauts were pulled from the ranks of test pilots, the most daring of all pilots and indeed the ones with all the right stuff. When these astronauts were told there not be any sort of window, there was a bit of mutiny. No way where these Masters Of The Air were going higher and further than anyone else without a sense of control or perspective on their trajectory.

The eponymous KSC replays in several different places John F. Kennedy’s stirring response to the USSR’s initial success in the space race:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Hyperdeck Mission Moon is a very enjoyable virtual reality experience (upon first arriving at KSC scan the QR code to secure a reservation). The VR lasts about eight minutes, which is understandable given that 12 minutes is the maximum time most civilians can engage in VR before succumbing to motion sickness. Here your task is to gather certain minerals embedded in rocks to fuel your voyage. Playing against three others, high score wins.

The second location is an easy 17 minute bus ride to the The Apollo/Saturn V Center. Informative videos set the stage for a driveby of the largest building (by volume) in the world. Big enough to house three (I said 3) Empire State Buildings, it is where the gigantic Saturn V is assembled prior to launch. Not only is it the largest rocket ever flown, it is the most complex machine ever built. I need to check if that is still true, given Musk’s recent success with SpaceX.

The Space Shuttle presentation is inspiring, the idea of reusing the rocket had never been tried. The screen is lifted at the end of the show, and seeing the rush of kids to see the actual Space Shuttle was inspiring.

The actual room used for Launch Control of Apollo 11 is well-staged, as they recreate the somewhat breathless countdown to liftoff for the first flight to the moon.

For context, the fuel on this rocket is so massive that the safest place from launch is three miles away (I said 3).

Touching an actual moon rock is amazing, and seeing a recreation of a moonwalk (are they playing golf or retrieving moon rocks?) is likewise quite cool.

Of course, as with all museums, galleries and attractions you exit through the gift shop. Here the shop is cleverly titled, as you can see from the photo nearby.

Whether you are someone who remembers sitting by your black-and-white television counting down the launch or you are a grandchild thereof, the Kennedy Space Center makes for an inspiring visit.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.