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Indulge Your Inner Astronaut: 9 Things To Do at Kennedy Space Center

Indulge Your Inner Astronaut: 9 Things To Do at Kennedy Space Center | CosmosMariners.com


When I was about 9, I had two dreams:
1) I would become an astronaut, and
2) I would became a paleontologist specializing in protoceratops (my favorite dinosaur at the time. The fact that I had a favorite dinosaur should tell you a lot about the type of kid I was.)

When I was about 12, I realized that
1) I was severely claustrophobic,
2) I doubted I could bring myself to eat space food, and
3) I enjoyed reading about space and dinosaurs (and, well, anything) more than I would enjoy studying astrophysics or digging for months in a hot desert.


Even though my childhood dreams of floating amongst the stars will never come true, I still got to indulge my continuing love of all things space on my recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Indulge Your Inner Astronaut: 9 Things To Do at Kennedy Space Center | CosmosMariners.com

When I was told that I needed to allot 6-8 hours to spend at the Space Center, I was dubious. What could I possible do for that long at one attraction? However, now that I've had time to experience the site, there's plenty to do here, and you could easily spend an entire day touring and learning about NASA's past, present, and future endeavors.

When you visit, here are 9 things that you've got to include in your Kennedy Space Center visit:

1) Take the bus tour to see the launch site of Apollo 8, learn about the crawlers that transport the rockets to the launch site, and get a peak at the up Space X launch site that will begin to take private citizens into space in 2017 (starting at the low, low price of $200,000).

Fun fact: Where the rockets are built is the tallest one story building in the world! When it was built in 1947, it was the world's tallest building. Now, it's the 6th largest in volume, and could fit 3 3/4 Empire State buildings by volume.
Indulge Your Inner Astronaut: 9 Things To Do at Kennedy Space Center | CosmosMariners.com

2) Spend time at the Saturn V center, where you can learn about the terrible tragedy of Apollo a, and why NASA was so keen to make the Saturn V mission successful. The simulation room puts you in the middle of the suspense and excitement of the controllers and astronauts in the final three minutes before Saturn V launched on December 21, 1968 as a part of the Apollo 8 program, and became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon.

Fun fact: the IBM computers in the simulation room are the exact ones that the controllers used to launch Saturn V in 1968. 
Indulge Your Inner Astronaut: 9 Things To Do at Kennedy Space Center | CosmosMariners.com

I left the simulation room filled with emotion over the triumph of those brave astronauts and the committed controllers who were able to safely send Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders to the moon. I loved the way that NASA has the Saturn V center set up, since you leave the control room, turn and corner to see the ACTUAL Saturn V rocket hanging from the ceiling! The sight of this gigantic rocket (which tops out at an impressive 363 feet, or slightly longer than a football field) was enough to stop my entire tour group cold: we all stood there, our mouths gaping at this thing that took 24 astronauts to the moon over a four year space.

Indulge Your Inner Astronaut: 9 Things To Do at Kennedy Space Center | CosmosMariners.com

If you can't tell, this was my favorite part of the entire Space Center.

3) Have lunch with an astronaut. Each day, a group of visitors is able to eat lunch with an astronaut and ask him or her about the experience of living and working in space. This experience is not included in regular admission, but if you've got a space-crazed kid (or you're a little space-crazed yourself), this would be well worth the splurge.

4) Meet an astronaut in the center's daily Astronaut Encounters. If you're not sure that you want to spring for the lunch, this is a great way to still get some face time with an astronaut--and it's included in your daily admission ticket. Look for the meeting times on your daily bulletin.

Fun fact: all of the astronauts that you'll be able to question and take a picture with have either flown on a space shuttle or they've lived aboard the International Space Station. 
5) Visit the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, where you can see the actual shuttle and learn about its crew members. Atlantis made 33 visits into space, and has flown 125 million miles. Like the Saturn V exhibit, it is overwhelming to see the size of Atlantis as it hangs directly in front of you.

Fun fact: the crawler that transports the rockets to the launch site get 32 feet to the gallon of gas. 
Indulge Your Inner Astronaut: 9 Things To Do at Kennedy Space Center | CosmosMariners.com

6) Pay your respects at the Space Shuttle Memorial, located inside the Atlantis exhibit. Warning: if you're prone to crying in public (as I am known to do), bring the tissues to the area that honors those lost in the Challenger and Columbia disasters. The entire exhibit is extremely well done and deeply moving, and reminds us all of the heavy price that comes with exploring beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

7) Wander through the Rocket Garden. Get up close and personal with the history of space flight in this outdoor exhibit. You can climb into replicas of the tiny 1-3 seat capsules from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo days--claustrophobic astronauts need not apply. Make sure to join one of the free guided tours of the garden, which will give you more insight into these towering space behemoths.

8) Learn about the future of space exploration in the Journey to Mars exhibit. Even though there aren't any current manned space flights, NASA is gearing up for the future of space travel--and our first manned flight to Mars. You can learn about the Orion program and why NASA is so interested in exploring Mars.

Did you know that the astronauts who will be commanding the next manned space exploration are currently between the ages of 6 and 16? It's possible that your budding engineer, astrophysicist or test pilot could grow up to be a part of the Orion crew. 
Indulge Your Inner Astronaut: 9 Things To Do at Kennedy Space Center | CosmosMariners.com

9) Let your smallest astronaut play in the play dome. Britton spotted this space-themed play area within a minute of us walking through the gates. There are several slides and multiple climbing levels in this adorable structure. Plus, it's a great place to let your kids get some energy out while you plan your day.

Have you visited the Kennedy Space Center? What's your favorite thing to do? 

I was provided complimentary tickets by Kennedy Space Center and the Brevard County Tourism in order to facilitate my review. All opinions (and general love of all things space) are my own.
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