If you have never been to the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it is definitely something you should plan on doing while in Florida. We visited quite a while ago, but it has left a lasting impression. Apparently Kennedy Space Center has been NASA’s primary launch center of human spaceflight since its first launch in December of 1968. Launch operations for the Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs were carried out from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 and managed by the Kennedy Space Center. While the first Apollo flights and all Project Mercury and Project Gemini flights took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the launches were managed by the Kennedy Space Center and its previous organization, the Launch Operations Directorate.
Starting with the fourth Gemini mission, the NASA launch control center in Florida (Mercury Control Center, later the Launch Control Center) began handing off control of the vehicle to the Mission Control Center shortly after liftoff; prior missions held control throughout the entire mission.
There are about 700 facilities grouped across the center’s 144,000 acres. Among the unique facilities at the Kennedy Space Center are the 525 foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking NASA’s largest rockets, Operations and Checkout Building which houses the astronaut crew quarters, and 3-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility. There is also a Visitor Complex open to the public on site. This is where we started.
While we were there we learned that the space program began in the early 50’s and have manned over 110 flights since then. They began with the Mercury and Gemini programs, which were followed in the 60’s by the Apollo moon missions aboard the gargantuan Saturn V rockets. When they say gargantuan, they aren’t kidding. (more on that later). Then in the 70’s the remodeled the facilities to accommodate the Space Shuttle program.After looking around for a while we got on a bus (included in admission) and made our way to the first stop, which was the 39 Observatory Gantry. On the way we passed the Vehicle Assembly Building. This building is considered one of the tallest buildings in the world.. Once we reached the Observatory we were all herded into the theater to watch a short film about the space program, and how it has developed. Afterwards were went into another room that had a model of a space shuttle and we watched a mock launching. A little later we went outside and walked around the building. From here we could see the actual launch pad. That was really exciting for everyone on the tour. A little later we got back on the bus and made our way to the other stop on the tour, the Apollo/Saturn V Center. We had heard it was huge, but I was completely shocked. My mouth was on the floor. It is incredibly huge. It is 363 feet in length and weighs 6.2 million pounds. It is definitely something worth seeing. I was amazed and completely in awe. We spent quite a while in there looking at all the paraphernalia and accessories. It is definitely worth saving some time to explore this area. You won’t be disappointed.We spent so much time in the Visitors Center and the Apollo V Center building, that we kind of missed out on some of the other great activates that the Kennedy Space Center has to offer. I would have loved to have visited the Astronaut Memorial where they honor NASA’s fallen heroes, those among the elite astronaut corps who gave their lives in the pursuit of knowledge that lies beyond our Earth. I think seeing a show in their I-Max theartre would have been cool too. Oh well, always great reasons to return one day. If you are planning on visiting soon, here is some helpful information: Tickets can be purchased the day of your visit at the Main Entrance, or can be purchased in advance and picked up at Will Call. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9 am – 6 pm, with bus tours leaving every 15 minutes. The last tour daily departs at 3:30 pm. These tours are approximately 2 hours in length. They also have kennels available if you have a dog with you, however you do need to make reservations in advance. Please check out the KSC website for more information. Hope you enjoy your experience. I know we sure did
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