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Photo Update: A look around Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

by Banks Lee

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By Kirstin Wright

Recently, I paid a much overdue visit to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, which is only about an hour drive from the Orlando area. The main purpose of this trip was to see the new Atlantis exhibit, which opened this past summer. However, any visit to the KSC is always inspiring.

Kennedy Space Center

The new entrance area is spacious. The Rocket Garden just beyond the turnstiles beckons you to obey the letters and ‘EXPLORE’. Most Central Florida theme parks feature some sort of park opening “show” and, appropriately, KSC’s is simple and patriotic; the National Anthem.

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Kennedy Space Center

Not surprisingly, the first stop for me was the Rocket Garden.

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The fact posts in front of each rocket makes the area even more impressive. Reading these rockets’ stories makes them come alive.

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Get to the Center early and catch one of the first bus tours, which is included with your general admission.

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You’ll board one of these KSC tour buses and travel to the Apollo Saturn V Center. The buses have several TV monitors that show informative video clips about the Center during the tour.

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In between video clips, the bus driver will share interesting facts about the sites passing by your window. You’ll see man-made wonders like the Vehicle Assembly Building, the Crawler-Transporter and one of the launch pads. But, mixed in with those are the natural wonders like alligators and bald eagles.

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Your final destination is the Apollo Saturn V Center. A short wait for the next intro movie to start allows for a history lesson of the year 1968 (when the Saturn V was launched), as facts from that year scroll across in red.

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The Center does a superb job of generating excitement for seeing the Saturn V rocket. The opening movie inspires and the actual control room captivates.

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By the time you get to stand under and marvel at the actual rocket, you’re bound to feel some sort of emotion! In this exhibit, you can learn all about the Saturn V, view artifacts that belonged to the astronauts who were a part of the Apollo program and even touch a moon rock! And if you caught one of the earlier bus tours, this is also a great place to grab lunch with one of the best views you’ll get anywhere. Sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza are on the menu at the cafe.

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I didn’t spend as long in the Saturn V exhibit as I usually do because I couldn’t wait any longer to go into the same room as the Atlantis space shuttle.

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Everything about this exhibit is well done. The walkway leading to the introductory movie room is lengthy, but the walls are decorated with quotes from men and women involved in the space shuttle program. The movie is high quality and the first view of the space shuttle is done in a creative and breathtaking way. I was impressed and think it should be a surprise for everyone, so keep your eye open for it during your visit.

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I had high hopes for the Atlantis exhibit and was not disappointed. The angle the space shuttle is mounted allows guests to get almost within fingers’ length of it at some points. The exhibit has multiple levels exposing all areas of the shuttle. I’ve never seen anything like it.

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Parts of space shuttles are arranged cohesively and facts about each part are written clearly and entertainingly. A lot of them are targeted at students to get them excited about science and technology. There are also model cockpits for the little ones and activities that utilize motion sensors for everyone to enjoy.

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Don’t forget to take a ride on The Shuttle Launch Experience, which is downstairs from Atlantis. This was my second time riding it and I was more impressed by it this time. It doesn’t have the thrill factor of Mission: Space, but the feeling of going completely vertical is not something you get to experience every day.

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On my way out of KSC, I took a quick stroll around the new Angry Birds Space Encounter exhibit. While definitely geared towards kids, the spooky maze made me  jump a few times and the “real-life” Angry Birds game is fun for a couple of shots.

At the end of the day, it was all about Atlantis for me. Pay Kennedy Space Center a visit to gain a new appreciation for space exploration; past and future.

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3 comments

Michael Small February 7, 2014 - 9:16 am

You are correct about arriving early for the buses. After about an hour the buses are a total shambles. We waited an hour for one in a queue that said wait 15 mins. I would not go again unless they do something to improve this part of the Theme Park. This incidentally was on a very quiet day, everywhere else on site was quiet.

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Jodi February 9, 2014 - 1:38 pm

Thanks for the information! We have watched the shuttle launch from my grandmothers in the past. However, we have never gone! This time, I really want to take the kids. How much time do you think we need to take there?

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Kirstin February 12, 2014 - 1:56 am

Having never gone to KSC with kids before, my time estimate could be inaccurate, but I would say at least half a day. Both times I’ve gone, I’ve stayed the entire day. Now, I was reading most of the information in the exhibits and so were the other adults I was with. Kids will love the new Angry Birds section of the park, though, and will probably want to play around in there for awhile. Hope you get to visit the Center soon!

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