Kennedy Space Center
We’ve always wanted to visit the Kennedy Space Center and finally found an opportunity to do that during one of our trips to Orlando last year. Located on Merritt Island, Florida, this facility has primarily been NASA’s launch center for space commercial crew missions and other government/private industry activities. The visitor complex offers public tours of the facility, and access to watch live launches for those who may be lucky enough to get tickets for one of these events.
Key events have taken place at the Kennedy Space center, most notably being the Apollo program that sent the first humans to the moon. If you’ve watched the movie Apollo 13 you’re familiar with the phrase “Houston, we have a problem”, and may be wondering why the Kennedy Space Center wasn’t necessarily mentioned. The reason is because Kennedy Space Center is used for Launch Control, whereas the Johnson Space Center in Houston is used for Mission Control. Once a rocket leaves the ground at Kennedy Space Center, control for it is passed to the Johnson Space Center in Houston in different phases .
During the tour, we got to see the decommissioned space shuttle Atlantis, rockets which varied in shape and size, and also some of the most powerful rocket engines ever built. The Apollo program required these powerful engines in order to be able to lift the heavy rockets into space, and they are still the most powerful engines in existence. NASA is currently planning on sending humans to future Mars explorations, and on display was the Mars Rover vehicle that will be used on the planet for that particular mission.
Part of the tour took us through one of the old launch control rooms where the NASA staff oversaw launches. The experience involved a simulation of an actual launch, which included strong vibrations around the room accompanied by bright amber lights to mimic the flames from the rockets during launch. If this was anything to go by, my hope is to one day go back to Kennedy Space Center to experience a live launch. Our tour guide mentioned that the coolest part about attending a live launch is you get to feel the earth shaking beneath your feet. Before we departed the Apollo/Saturn V section of the tour, we got to walk beneath a real moon rocket, which is one of only three remaining in the United States. NASA had a large Christmas ornament on display near the entrance which made for a great photo-op.
Have you seen a live rocket launch before? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know of your experience!