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Florida Tourist Attractions – Kennedy Space Centre, The Space Coast
Watching the shuttle blast off into space would be like watching those first ambitious fish land on dry land, topped off with the explosive power of the world’s most expensive fireworks. If you ever need a little inspiration, a space-shuttle launch will make you appreciate just how remarkable humans really are.
Start by contacting them Kenny Space Center ( 321-867-4636 ) also find out if there is a launch during your visit (you can also order tickets to see the launch). If you can’t get tickets to the KSC facilities, don’t worry – there are plenty of great places to watch the shuttle take off. Try the Astronaut Hall of Fame, Jetty Park Campground, Cherry Down Park, Rotary Riverfront Park, Space View Park, Coca Beach Pier, Bennett Causeway (Hwy 528) and the Brewer Parkway Bridge in Titusville.
Make hotel reservations early and plan to stay for a while. The launch I saw, STS-110, was delayed 3 times due to mechanical problems and stormy weather, a week that ended with a nail0biting countdown in which technicians reloaded software on Space Shuttle Atlantis in the final minutes.
Get to your viewing site early and bring binoculars and extra beer – this is an international tailgate party no matter where you are. Vendors sell ice cream, soda, and even mission-specific T-shirts (from $10; they make great souvenirs). Tune into 920AM for up-to-the-minute reports and, five minutes before the big event, the countdown.
During the launch I observed, the pressurized STS-110 tank contained thicker than expected solid fuel. I was parked on the Brewer Parkway bridge, blocked by dozens of cars – nobody seemed to care, nobody was going anywhere. People from all over the world were taking turns with my friend Linda’s binoculars, examining Atlantis from across the bay, imagining it straining at the launcher, eager to take off. “The wind will be very strong today.” announced a man, his ears to the radio. We had 28 minutes until the launch window opened. Prayers to various deities began. “The shuttle’s computers went down,” another woman yelled. The window will close in nine minutes.
But with seconds to spare, NASA came forward and the entire Space Coast shouted “Three, two, one – liftoff!” He started chanting. And there were flames, then clouds of steam, and a quiet ascent into the stratosphere. “Here comes the noise,” a father whispered to his son. Windshields rattled in response to the roar; Not one of us covered our ears. And Atlantis departed.
International Spare Station Center
This attraction is so sophisticated, you’ll think the swishing automatic doors have taken you straight to the bridge of the USS Enterprise. You can’t witness the actual elements of the International Space Station being built, but a high-tech observation deck shows the astronauts’ cramped living quarters — no need to invoke claustrophobia. You can only see the center through the NASA Up Close Tour and Astronaut Training Experience.
– Astronaut training experience
The Astronaut Training Experience (321-449-4400; lunch and gear $225 per person) is an all-you-can-eat way to become an astronaut without all the schooling and training. This experience puts astronauts through intensive training, including a 1/6 gravity chair and a mission-control countdown. You’ll also have Q&As with former astronauts, as well as exclusive tours of the shuttle launch pad, the International Space Station, and the NASA press site. Participants must be at least 14; Persons under 19 must be accompanied by an adult. This program is extremely popular so call ahead for reservations.
– NASA Up Close Tour
The NASA Up Close ($52/36 adult/child) tour includes regular admission and a 2-hour tour of the ‘restricted areas’, where spacecraft are refitted after landing and prepared for launch. You almost feel like you’re actually going to see an alien autopsy room, as Mulder and Scully walk around a top-secret warehouse as you weave between tall buildings and steel walkways. Plus, you don’t have to be an uber space junkie to appreciate this cool behind-the-scenes look at NASA facilities. Before launch, this tour is shortened (no return).
Author: Kenneth Ng, Lonely Planet
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