Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting a little space, part 3

We originally had no plan to visit Kennedy Space Center this year. Much as we love space, it was expense and travel that we were willing to put off. The launch viewings changed our plans, and we ended up glad that we'd found a reason to make the trip (or four) out to KSC. So here's a little more about Kennedy Space Center as a destination.

My shuttle launch ticket functioned as a regular admission ticket for 2 days within a 7-day period, but technically I burned both days on the launch. We all needed KSC admission tickets for the SDO launch, which, unlike a shuttle launch, required a regular admission ticket (some rocket launches are open to the public, and are included with admission). I bought annual passes for all five of us, as we plan to be in the area later in the year. An annual pass costs less than twice buying 2-day passes, and there is plenty there to occupy us long enough each day to make it worth it.

Admission includes all attractions at the main visitor center, including the two IMAX films, the Shuttle Launch Experience ride, and indoor and outdoor exhibits. Also included are bus tours of the center, where the guides identify various facilities and their place in the history of space exploration. Fancier tours are available for additional cost.

The buses stop at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, a museum all about the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo program. The introductory movie and simulated launch presentation in the mission control center are pretty neat. There's also a Saturn V rocket, fixed up, staged out, and completely explained, as well as exhibits on Apollo program training and technology. The second bus stop is the International Space Station Center, where you can walk through models of Space Station segments, and look down into the actual cleanroom where new nodes are prepared for flight and operation. (Or will be for a short time longer, I guess.)

Also included in a KSC admission ticket is admission to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which I expected would be rather boring and "memorial", but which was actually quite interactive and educational. The boys enjoyed the "g-force trainer" centrifuge, and all three of us landed the shuttle with the flight simulator game. We climbed into a model of a Mercury capsule and flipped switches, and we tried on space suit helmets and did motion experiments. We could have spent an entire museum day (3-4 hours) in the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which is a few miles from the KSC visitor complex.

Very soon I'll post a list of all the Florida State Parks we stayed in this season, and a little something about the empire of the mouse.