This month, we took a family vacation to Orlando, Florida. It was a great time, despite the brutal heat and humidity. I’m not used to that! Now I live somewhere with dry heat when it’s hot.
Anyway, we planned for a full day at NASA Kennedy Space Center. It is roughly an 80-minute drive away from Orlando. We spent almost 8 hours at the facility, and we didn’t do everything we wanted! I’ll give you some views of what we enjoyed. If you ever have the opportunity to visit NASA Kennedy, I do recommend you plan to spend the entire day there. Two days might be even better.
We actually drove there twice, because the night beforehand was a SpaceX rocket launch! It was CRS-25, a resupply mission to the International Space Station. This was a dream come true for me – to see a major orbital rocket launch in person.
Let’s start with that. It was like a planetary-scale fireworks show!
Here we are on a bridge about 10 miles away from the launch pad. Since it was a nighttime launch, NASA Kennedy grounds were closed to the public. If we were to do it again, I would have driven right up to the access gate which is about 5 miles away. From this vantage we could see the rocket on the launch pad with binoculars.
When the rocket launched, it was as bright as the sun. We couldn’t see anything of the rocket except for the massive flame fireball.
It seemed to take forever for the sound to reach us. It must have been about 10 seconds based on the distance. Then the sound was like a powerful thunderclap that filled the air around us. And it didn’t stop! Imagine a thunderclap that continues for at least 45 seconds.
Eventually the first and second stages separated. It was amazing to watch the first stage come to life again as the engine re-fired to slow the booster down and return to Earth.
The booster landed on a drone ship in the ocean. We didn’t have a view for that, unfortunately. But many people around us were playing the livestream on their phone so we all cheered when we got word that the booster landing was successful.
On our return the next day, we looked for unique shows and presentations to enjoy. Several attractions at NASA Kennedy take 20-45 minutes so you have to plan deliberately.
There is an entire building for NASA Heroes and Legends. There is an entire building for the Space Shuttle Atlantis. There is an entire building for future space explorations called Gateway. There is an IMAX theater. There is a rocket “garden.” Of course there is a gift shop – actually several!
And there is more… let’s enjoy some views. Here is the entrance with the rocket garden rising up behind it.
One of the buildings had an entire Saturn V rocket inside of it. Fantastic!
One of the movies was in the actual mission control room from the Mercury missions. They have kept it perfectly preserved. Very cool!
There were historic space artifacts in every building. Here are a few, starting with an actual Mercury space capsule.
Here was a SpaceX Dragon capsule and reusable rocket booster.
We got to hear from a former astronaut. The unexpected bonus for this person was that he went to the same high school as me! (Rocky River High School, in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.) No, we didn’t attend at the same time. He was over 15 years ahead of me.
More spaceship artifacts…
We also took a bus tour. One of the stops was the Saturn V building with the image you saw above. On the way we saw the VAB – Vehicle Assembly Building. This is the largest single-story building in the world! Inside it at the time was the NASA SLS and Artemis 1 rocket. This will be going to the moon later this year, if all goes well.
The extra bonus during the bus trip was a neighbor on the road. It was the same SpaceX Falcon 9 booster that we saw roar into the sky the night before! It was on its way back to the SpaceX facility for refurbishment and preparation for its next mission.
Here is one more photo. Signing off in front of the Space Shuttle boosters…
Here is the NASA Kennedy Space Center website if you can plan your trip there. It has more than enough for a full day visit. If you want to see everything, including the IMAX movies and all of the presentations, you will need more than one day there. There is a space shuttle launch simulator that gets a lot of praise but the line was too long for us to wait in.
I hope this gives you an exciting taste of everything at NASA Kennedy Space Center. I hope you can make the visit and make the most of it, including a rocket launch!