A first post by Brian: a day at Kennedy Space Center, Florida

posted in: Blog, North America | 22

Florida 133Major excitement today as we have our first ever post from Brian, who is Jess and Robert’s dad! Read on for his visit to the Kennedy Space Center…

When Robert was at Space Camp, I took the opportunity to visit Kennedy Space Center myself.

I spent roughly half of my time at the Visitor Complex, and the other half taking a bus tour and then exploring the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

I had an amazing time, and here are some of the highlights.


Kennedy Space Center, Florida
The rocket garden (the Saturn rocket is on its side because it’s so big)

The Rocket Garden: I really enjoyed walking round the “garden” which contains many of the rockets used in the earlier space missions. Seven are real – but were simply not flown – and one is a replica (the Gemini rocket, which ironically is the first one you come to when you enter). I joined one of the 15 minute tours, and was interested to hear the guide talk about the significance of the “space race” during the Cold War: how Americans were genuinely scared of what was flying above them when the Soviets launched the first satellite into space, and then “embarrassed” when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.

The Astronaut Encounter theatre: I saw veteran astronaut Bob Springer, who served on two Space Shuttle flights (on Discovery in 1989 and Atlantis in 1990: the latter carrying a top-secret cargo). He certainly had “the right stuff”, after being a pilot in Vietnam, then a test pilot, before joining NASA.
He told many fascinating stories about his time in the International Space Station: how he slept for only one and half hours each night (a combination of wanting to experience as much of his time in space as possible, and seeing a sunrise every 90 minutes) and the fact that he slept while floating (when most other astronauts velcroed their sleeping bags onto a wall or ceiling). He also spoke humorously about his suffering from space sickness during his second day in space – he managed to vomit into his sick-bag but the contents rebounded from the far side of the container straight back into his mouth!

The IMAX Theatre: There were two 3D films showing there. I saw Hubble, a 45 minute film narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, containing footage from the final space-shuttle mission to repair the Hubble telescope. The best parts though were the amazing images found by the telescope, with stunning animation of journeys through distant galaxies.

Space Shuttle Atlantis
Space Shuttle Atlantis

The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit: this was probably the highlight of my day. It started with a film about the challenges of designing a reusable spacecraft, then another showing the shuttles in action. This film ended with the final landing of the Atlantis, with the commentary saying “Atlantis, welcome home” over the frozen image of the shuttle. The video screen then rose up to reveal that we had actually been looking at the real thing, and the effect was incredibly emotional. The exhibit is tilted on its side and it looks like it is flying in space with its payload doors open and the robot arm extended.  (Only the arm is not authentic, the original having been taken back by the Canadian Space Agency). The shuttle was much larger than I expected, and the building was cleverly designed so you could see it from lots of different angles. It was amazing to see such an iconic spacecraft, the one that flew the last ever shuttle mission, with its black scorch marks from re-entry clearly visible on its tiles.

The Shuttle Launch experience: this simulates being launched into space aboard one of the shuttles. It is noisy and the vibrations are quite intense. It starts with the shuttle rotating into a vertical position and ends with the payload doors opening to give the impression that that you are floating in space. I enjoyed it, but would probably give it a miss if time is short.



I went on the “Up-Close Explore Tour”, led by an expert guide, which took us around some of the famous landmarks at Kennedy Space Center:

* launchpads 39A and 39B, which were used for the Apollo and space shuttle missions;

* the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where the gigantic Saturn rockets were stacked and the space shuttles were assembled. This building is massive – it is the world’s fourth largest building by volume, adorned with the world’s largest painted American flag;

* the NASA Causeway, which was the closest spot that the public could watch the space shuttle launches. There are panoramic views over the river from here, and you can also see the VAB in the distance.

* the Shuttle Landing Facility (one of the longest runways in the world)

The bus tour made several stops so we could stretch our legs and take photos.

The tour lasted around two hours – it started at the Visitor Complex and the final destination was the Apollo/Saturn V Center.



The boosters for the Saturn Rocket
The boosters for the Saturn Rocket

This is a huge museum dedicated to the Apollo missions and the Saturn V rockets that took astronauts to the moon.

A fully restored  363-foot Saturn V rocket is the showpiece exhibit.  It is suspended on its side, allowing you to walk underneath as well as around it, and it is enormous.

There are lots of other exhibits from the Apollo moon missions, including the Apollo 14 Command Module and some moon rock that you can touch.

There are two very enjoyable theatre shows to see here – the first one is a recreation of the Apollo control room and simulates the final minutes of the Apollo 8 launch , and the second  simulates the Apollo 11 moon landing.

With a new astronaut friend at Kennedy Space Center
With a new astronaut friend



It was impossible to see everything properly in just one day, and I would have liked to have spent even more time there.

Daily admission at the Kennedy Space Center costs $50, and this includes the bus tour. The Up-Close tour is an additional $25 per person, plus tax, and $19 per child.

Read about Robert’s trip to Space Camp!

Read some news about the famous Nasa countdown clock


22 Responses

  1. Alyson

    We’ve been twice now. LOVE it! It’s the ultimate homeschool field trip and that new shuttle feature is so emotional! ( we have posts too if you want to see!)

  2. Brianna

    I haven’t been there in ages but had a friend who worked there and gave me a behind the scenes tour of Kennedy Space Center. Great memories!

  3. Andy

    Loved the part about the Atlantis exhibit. The video and then the real thing! That should be so cool!

  4. Lisa Goodmurphy

    My husband wants to visit the Kennedy Space Center so badly! We planned to go the last time that we were in Orlando and couldn’t talk the kids into giving up a day at Disney. Next time we’ll be going for certain!

    • Brian

      It depends how much time you have, especially as it is a good hour and a half drive away from Orlando. But if your kids are old enough (say eight and up) they will love it.

    • Brian

      Thanks Constance – yes, it really surprised how much there was to see, and how much i enjoyed it.

  5. Michelle Murray

    Wowser this looks amazing. It’s always been my dream to visit

  6. Jane Myers

    I should be working but I’d much rather read a little about your trip to the Space Centre – well done Robert – very well written and so interesting.

    • Sarah Ebner

      Thank you very much Jane. I’m going to congratulate Robert and Brian on their writing as am guessing you maybe read both. xxx

  7. Trish - Mum's Gone to

    Great to see another member of the family joining in with the blog. Welcome, Brian! I may have to have words with my husband, see if he fancies helping me out with mine now and again 🙂

    • Brian

      Thanks Trish. Good luck with persuading your husband – I am certainly no natural writer, so this may well be my one and only post!

  8. kirstie

    Hi Brian.
    Good to her another yet another Ebner family voice. We love space stuff on our travels- the kids seem to be particularly fascinated with anything to do with going to the toilet in space.
    I would LOVE to meet a real astronaut. I hear they are generally a really great bunch. I guess you have to be the kind of person who gets on with people if you are going to be trapped in a small space with them for months on end…!

  9. Lakshmi Priya Pampati

    I always wanted to be an astronaut but due to some unavoidable circumstances I had to change my plans. I had real fun while reading this blog, made me nostalgic! great post.

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