Kennedy Space Centre was one of the places I’d most wanted to go since I was a child, so I managed to squeeze in a trip there on my honeymoon. I booked transport to and from KSC with GrayLine, after buying tickets online directly from KSC Visitor Centre.
The day started very early, with a 20 min walk from our hotel to the closest pickup point at a nearby hotel. We met our driver for the trip and started our journey out to the Cape which is about an hour from International Drive. Our driver gave us all some nice tips and a bit of personal history. It was not a busy day so we arrived and were able to walk straight in after some photos of the NASA meatball and the JFK water feature.
Once you walk in, the place that stands out the most is the Rocket Garden - this exhibit really gives you a great appreciation for the scale involved with all of the various rockets. We were booked onto the early Explorer Tour, so we had some quick breakfast and made our way to the bus departure point.
The KSC Explorer tour is an extra $25 on top of the entrance fee, but I have to say it was worth it. It’s a great bus tour that reveals a bit more behind the scenes information, and it heads to the areas around the Vehicle Assembly Building, some historical sites, and a couple of the launch viewing sites. We travelled alongside the crawler tracks over to the 39A and B launch pads, where SpaceX will launch their Falcon Heavy rockets. It appears that they are removing the rotating service structure from 39A currently as they obviously won’t need it for future manned missions. It was very cool to see this up close.
The tour continues to the Saturn V / Apollo centre. This starts with a great short film and a recreated launch control centre before opening two large doors to a huge Saturn V rocket on display. The room is dominated by a Saturn V rocket, with other smaller displays dotted around - such as the Lunar Module and Rover. To the left of the room, is an exhibit which displays numerous items that have actually been in space, from rocks and mission manuals to space suits and the Apollo 14 capsule. It was amazing to see these items in real life and of course to get a perspective on the the Saturn V.
Once back from that tour we grabbed some lunch in the surprisingly nice restaurant, and made our way over to the theatre for one of the 3D movies on offer. It looked interesting and was advertised as being narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, but was in reality mostly just an introduction by him. We found the short film mostly average - you’ve seen better on the Discovery Channel. Portraying it as 3D was nothing more than a gimmick, the experience would have been better in 2D IMAX.
Towards the end of the day, we visited the Atlantis exhibition almost as an afterthought. There’s a short walk up to the beginning of the exhibit where there are monitors where you watch a history of the shuttle program. You then proceed into another area with a great 360 degree projection of a launch when the screen retracts into the ceiling and reveals an amazing display of the shuttle Atlantis. This section was in my opinion the best part of the entire day. The room you walk into is really well laid out, and I learned a lot, and really enjoyed seeing the shuttle up close.
Part of the exhibit was dedicated to the astronauts who lost their lives during the ill fated Challenger mission. This displayed some of their personal effects and information about their personal lives and the interests they had outside of NASA. I found this was very poignant.
And finally like all good tours, it concluded in the gift shop. I bought more here than I did on the entirety of my honeymoon. There were the obligatory NASA t-shirts, mugs, fridge magnets, patches, and stickers. I particularly loved the top floor bookshop and wanted to buy numerous books, but as luggage space was a luxury my new wife informed me I could ill afford, I will have to rely on tried and trusted online delivery from Amazon.