I’ve visited the Kennedy Space Center twice now, and can’t wait to go back for more!
As you arrive at Kennedy Space Center, you’ll need to pay for parking – $10 per ticket at the time of writing, which is way cheaper than Disney!
Once parked you’ll head to the ticket counter. A lot of hotel and tourist guides in Florida include a coupon so make sure you bring those to save on entry.
Unfortunately there weren’t any Florida resident discounts on an individual ticket when I was there, unless you live in the same county as the Space Center.
On my second visit to the Kennedy Space Center, we went on a Monday which was much quieter than on a weekend. This reduces wait times for the attractions dramatically, so definitely avoid the weekends if you can.
We were short on time for my last visit, so we bypassed a lot of the attractions closer to the gate and went straight to the bus tour. You can do a specialist tour, but the general tour is included in the price of your ticket and included plenty of cool stuff to see.
First, the bus will take you out to the ginormous Vehicle Assembly Building where they put together the Space Shuttles and will be building the SLS – NASAs next rocket taking us to the moon. It’s hard to fathom the size of this building just by looking at it. Just the blue section of the American flag is the size of a basketball court! The doors are the larger doors in the world.
Next to the Vehicle Assembly Building you’ll also see the Launch Control Center where NASA manages the launch of each of their space missions before handing over management to Houston.
From here the bus will take you out to the launch pads. You’ll get to see the Space X launch pad, which is now set up with a launch tower complete with retractable arm for the astronauts to board the aircraft which will hopefully be used for the first time later this year.
Space X is slated to launch the first Astronauts from American soil to the international Space Station since the end of the shuttle program in 2011.
You’ll also see NASA’s launch pad where they’ll eventually be launching the SLS to the moon.
Race to the Moon
From the launch pads you’ll be taken to the Apollo / Saturn v Center where you’ll learn all about the race to the moon.
As you enter through the first doors you’ll see a brief presentation before entering the Launch Control Room where you’ll experience what it was like to be there on the day of an Apollo launch. Though not in the same building that the original control center was in, everything else is pretty much the same – including the original control consoles.
From here you’ll walk into the long room and see the entirety of the Saturn V rocket. Take a moment to feel dwarfed by the massiveness of this machine – it’s pretty much impossible to get a decent photo that shows the true size of this rocket.
You’ll be able to walk the length of the Saturn V and see each of the stages of the rocket. You’ll also find moon rock samples to touch and other interesting exhibits through the room. At the far end of the building you’ll find a theatre that will take you back in time to the moon landing.
Exiting the theatre you’ll see some pretty interesting designs of space suits – I still can’t figure out how they moved around in these things.
You’ll also see one of the crew capsules used during the Apollo missions. It is hard to believe that three people not only lived in such a small space but also travelled the furthest any human has travelled.
Atlantis and the Shuttle
We boarded the bus and jumped forward a decade to the shuttle program in the Atlantis exhibit. Similar to the presentation at the Apollo building, there’s a video explaining the space shuttle program (with some bad acting). The cool part is where they fade the screen, revealing the real life Atlantis Space Shuttle. The screen then opens up so you can look at this spectacular space craft in detail.
As you head downstairs, you’ll pass the kids space station (adults, don’t try and fit into it). On the ground floor, you’ll find the Forever Remembered exhibit which commemorates the lives of the astronauts lost from the final Challenger and Columbus Missions. This is a sombre experience – a reminder that space exploration comes at great cost!
Also within the shuttle building you’ll find a range of simulators for rendezvous with other space craft, controlling the shuttle arm and much more. There is also a launch simulator, where you board the space shuttle and get to experience the full launch – though this is a pretty simple ride, I definitely think this is worth doing!
The Rocket Garden
Kennedy Space Center’s Rocket Garden includes a range of rockets from the days of early space exploration. Many of these rockets had started out as ballistic missiles.
The garden gives you an appreciation for the size of these machines. If you time your visit to the Rocket Garden well, you’ll be able to tag along with a tour and hear more details about each spacecraft.
The US Astronaut Hall of Fame – Heroes & Legends
Sponsored by Boeing, this exhibit is in the building next to the rocket garden. As you enter the Hall of Fame, you will go straight into the 4D multisensory theater wearing 3D glasses. This is one of the most advanced exhibits at the Kennedy Space Center and an incredible way to get to know the astronauts and their lives. As you leave the theatre, there is plenty more to see in this building, including all the astronauts who’ve been a part of US space exploration.
Meet an Astronaut
After learning about some of the heroes of space exploration, why not meet one face to face? Most days, the Kennedy Space Center will offer a chance for you to hear a presentation from an astronaut, and even have your photo with them. Wendy Lawrence gave an excellent presentation about her visit to the MIR space station and missions on the space shuttle then held a great Q&A time. These presentations are definitely worth getting along to if you have some time.
There are a range of other exhibits at Kennedy Space Center. We ran out of time on this particular trip. There are numerous theatres, including iMax featuring two difference film options throughout the day. There is also a budding that focusses specifically on upcoming missions to Mars.
Watching A Launch
I have not yet seen a launch from the Kennedy Space Center. They do offer a number of locations where you can watch a launch from for a fee. It is worth checking with the visitor center in case there is a launch when you visit.
We have traveled to Cocoa Beach where we watched a night launch at no charge, but would love to get up closer and experience a launch from the Kennedy Space Center gantry.
Space Port – A New Chapter for the Kennedy Space Center
The last time I went to Kennedy Space Center, there was a lot of cool stuff, but it seemed more like a museum of great achievements from a bygone era. During this trip, there was a lot more momentum. There was a launch the previous week, one scheduled a couple of weeks later and talk of being able to launch astronauts into space before the end of the year. The Cape is on it’s way to becoming a modern day space port!
The Kennedy Space Center is an incredible place to visit, enabling you to walk back in history but also lean into the hope that will come as we step forward into the future of space exploration.