The imposing Entrance Gates to the Kennedy Space Center did not even check my second-day use of my two-day old ticket…I walked right through! Now that’s Security! It was 9:15 a.m. and I had designated the entire day to explore the Visitor Complex. The previous time with Uncle Carl and Aunt Nettie we had not spent any time at the Visitor Center – we had just hopped the tour bus and gone to the two outlying stops – the Launch Complex and the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
Strolling the grounds I first visited the Rocket Garden. This is an area of large upright rockets with plaques that describe when they were designed, what the mission was, how they failed (most of them) and what was learned from that failure. Gazing up at them I couldn’t help but wonder what grown up little boys had designed these obviously dangerous apparatuses thinking that they might safely get people into space. One of the early astronauts was quoted as saying “C’mon, let’s light this candle,” and that is exactly what all of them looked like – tall dangerous explosive Roman candles! I cannot imagine being foolish or daring enough to have perched myself atop one them and think I would survive! Incredibly ridiculous!
The Exploration Space exhibit inside a large building tries to entice youngsters to become interested in space, and an Art Gallery glorifies the beauty of the Universe and its many galaxies. The Nature and Technology building explains the harmful effects the continual blast-offs from Cape Canaveral have on all the wildlife there – from birds to alligators to reptiles to mammals and fish. Actually, I’m fairly surprised that any life decides to live around there at all, what with the intense noise level and atmospheric pressure rumbles the launches create. And launches are departing much more often that I had realized – spy, weather, GPS and science satellites are taking off quite frequently.
Probably the three most fun things were the simulated Shuttle Launch Experience, the 3D movie called “Hubble” narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and the movie called “Space Station” narrated by Tom Cruise. Between those three activities I literally felt immersed in Space and somewhat floating and lost among the stars! The Shuttle Launch Experience was so well done that it truly felt like, from your strapped-in seat position of the shuttle, you were in count-down, blast-off, rocket separation stages and free float in Space. The
simulated shuttle actually does tip back so the entire crew ( up to 30 tourists) fall with the pull of gravity back into the seats, the whole thing roars and vibrates with fierce rumbling, and after rocket separation it’s calm and peaceful and the overhead hatch opens wide to show the dark sky full of countless stars! If you get to Florida, you must come try this – it’s probably the closest most of us will ever come to a real astronaut experience.
The 3D movie “Hubble” was excellent: the pictures Hubble takes of the stunning, incredibly massive formations that exist in the universe left me trying to wrap my mind around the impossible-to-fathom size and grandeur of it all. Too difficult – it’s beyond the capabilities of my gray matter. But splendiforous to behold in vision!
“Space Station” movie was about how it was built, piece by piece, with different nations building each segment, and what a miracle it was that it all fit once up in the air, as they were never tested together on the ground before being shot into the atmosphere at great expense to each of us. It also showed what life is like aboard the space station, and some of the experiments that are being conducted and space walks several astronauts have had to make – very
interesting movie and again left me feeling like I was floating, like they were, miles above Earth.
Finally, by almost 4 p.m. I was weary with hunger and thirst and from wandering around the Universe like a lost wayfaring Space traveler. I returned to Earth and current time, left the Kennedy Space Center and headed north to St. Augustine, to explore the oldest city in America!