Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex Florida
From the earliest days of America’s storied space program, Kennedy Space Center has been there. Through the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs, the NASA prep and launch facility has captured the world’s attention and fed its imagination for the farthest reaches of outer space. Nestled on a placid barrier island on Florida’s “Space Coast” – Cocoa Beach, Titusville, Melbourne and Palm Bay – the endlessly bustling Kennedy Space Center is the epicenter of mankind’s greatest adventure. Now, with a new era of events and interactive programs unfolding year-round, Kennedy Space Center is one of many attractions in Orlando that you should not miss.
Located just 45 minutes from Orlando, at more than 140,000 acres – over 200 square miles – the massive Kennedy Space Center is six times larger than Manhattan. It is a dynamic entity, with more than 20 NASA launches conducted in the past year by NASA and private industry. Kennedy Space Center’s remarkable collection of rockets, launch pads, NASA aerospace technology components and launch viewing opportunities offer an authenticity and behind-the-scenes access unlike any other Central Florida destination.
Home to the legendary Launch Control Center, where NASA engineers have guided launches since the Apollo program of the early 1960’s, Kennedy Space Center also boasts the Vehicle Assembly Building – one of the largest buildings in the world – where Saturn V rockets and Space Shuttle vehicles have been assembled piece by piece. Stretched north is the 15,000-foot Shuttle Landing Strip, and along the Atlantic shore are the massive Shuttle launch pads, LC-39A and LC-39B. A stone’s skip across the Banana River is Cape Canaveral, site of countless launches and even more launch pads, from the historic Mercury Redstone pads to the still-active LC-40 Titan IV.
Complementing the awe-inspiring collection of giant buildings and space equipment, Kennedy Space Center offers visitors numerous activities and interactive programs that will leave them with a new-found understanding of the U.S. space program, as well as a lasting impression of the individual and team accomplishments that make it all possible. From technical details and physical experiments to the delicate balance between man and machine, Kennedy Space Center provides new ways to explore and appreciate planet earth as well as its surrounding universe:
- Live Space Launches - The smoke, the noise, the vibrations – and the view! From countdown to blast off, there’s nothing quite like an authentic space launch. An on-going schedule of manned and unmanned space launches keep eyes glued to the skies above Kennedy Space Center throughout the year. For more information on viewing a launch call, 321-449-4444 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge - Kennedy Space Center is an ecological sanctuary encompassed by the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, home to more state and federally protected wildlife than any other National Refuge. Throughout 140,000 acres of estuaries, marshes and coastal dunes are seven distinct habitat types and over 500 species: from manatees to alligators, bald eagles to ospreys, and butterflies to sea turtles. Look for five hiking trails from 1/4 mile to five miles long, a seven-mile driving tour, and countless photo opportunities.
- NASA Guided Tours - Short of becoming an astronaut, there’s no better way to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Kennedy Space Center than on a NASA Guided Tour. The two-hour tour is an insightfully narrated journey through the evolution of the space program featuring a visit to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just across the Banana River from Kenney Space Center. The tour includes access to historical sights seldom open to the public, and explores the Space Shuttle program, from launch prep to lift-off, including up-close views of launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the six-million-pound Crawler-Transporter that hauls the Shuttle to its pad.
- Apollo/Saturn V Center - A fully restored massive Saturn V moon rocket serves as the centerpiece of the Apollo/Saturn V Center. In addition to viewing all 363 feet of the most powerful rocket ever built, visitors can relive the historic launch of Apollo 8 in the Firing Room Theatre, and catch the harrowing final moments before man landed on the moon in the Lunar Theatre. Visitors can experience the Apollo/Saturn V Center in detail along with the LC-39 Observation Gantry on Kennedy Space Center’s NASA Guided Tour.
- Spaceflight Simulator - The next best thing to heading off into the wild blue yonder is to try your hand on a spaceflight simulator at Kennedy Space Center’s Astronaut Hall of Fame. Interactive exhibits and simulators allow guests to experience for themselves not just the thrill but the pull of flight. The G-force trainer centrifuge takes guests on a jet fighter training run, where they can pull up to “4 Gs” – three times the force of gravity – without ever leaving the ground. Visitors can also experience the lighter-than-air ease of walking on the moon, and even ride in a rover on the surface of Mars.
- IMAX® Theaters - Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is home to not one but two five-and-a-half-story-tall IMAX® screens – the only twin IMAX® theaters in the world. Now playing: the 3-D IMAX® blockbuster Space Station. Narrated by Academy Award nominee Tom Cruise, Space Station takes audiences on an incredible cinematic journey to the International Space Station. Stunning footage shot by 25 Astronauts and Cosmonauts and 3-D technology combine to make audience members feel like they’re inside the Shuttle on launch, outside on a space walk, and floating effortlessly through the Station as it circles 220 miles above the earth.
- Astronaut Hall of Fame - Although much of the story at Kennedy Space Center is about state-of-the-future technology, the new Astronaut Hall of Fame is about the brave men and women who flew. Kennedy Space Center’s newest addition features the world’s largest collection of astronaut memorabilia, plus scintillating displays, exhibits, simulators and tributes to the heroes of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. A historic collection of spacecrafts includes the Mercury Sigma 7 capsule, a Gemini training capsule, and the Apollo 14 command module. Shuttle astronauts Dan Brandenstein, Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson, Story Musgrave and Sally Ride were inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame June 21, 2003 by Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell.
- Rocket Garden - Recently unveiled after its first “face-lift” in 35 years, the all-new Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is ready for a ride. Marvel at eight vintage rockets from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, each surrounded by expansive walkways and highlighted with easy-to-read signage and graphic elements. The Apollo 11 gantry arm and Apollo capsule model allow visitors to reenact the heart-pumping moments of countdown and launch, while the Mercury and Gemini capsules let you experience first hand just how small early space craft were.
- Lunch With An Astronaut - Kennedy Space Center’s Lunch With An Astronaut offers guests a unique opportunity to dine with a true space hero. Learn about the daily life of an astronaut, ask questions, get a photo with the astronaut and an autographed souvenir. Seating is limited to insure an intimate setting, and the menu features gourmet classics like rotisserie chicken and oven-roasted potatoes, as well as Kennedy Space Center’s signature dessert, the “Brownie Liftoff”: a milk chocolate brownie surrounded by whipped cream and topped with fresh berries and melba sauce.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open daily from 9 a.m. to approximately dusk, except December 25 and certain launch days. Maximum Access Admission includes all exhibits, Astronaut Encounter, IMAX® space films, the KSC Tour of restricted areas, and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, featuring historic spacecrafts, simulator rides and the world's largest collection of personal astronaut mementos.