|03-01-2002, 04:03 AM||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Spennymoor Co. Durham
Mike- Two & Two Kids, please...Day 8 ..Kennedy Space Centre...Come fly withme??
Two & Two Kids, please...Day 8 ..Kennedy Space Centre...Come fly withme??
A general awakening about 8 a.m. to witness an overcast day....oh, well let's see if the weather forecast will cheer us up ..Oh, yeah..cloudy start, followed by sun and a tops of 80 degrees ...that'll do!
We had a light breakfast then set off on our journey to Kennedy Space Centre...DW wasn't overly impressed when I wanted to do this ...but after more shopping trips than Al Fayed could handle it was the turn of the boys for some fun!
Into the car we got , up the Beeline Express and onto Highway 528....oh, look , only a couple of miles and already we' find a toll booth...oh, lucky us !! another toll booth and 50 cents please......Blimey , will our luck never end , here's yet ANOTHER toll booth....you get the picture by now!! The tolls in themselves are minimal , 50-7t cents , but the constant stop-start is a bit of a bind ( not the words I chose to use at the time , I recall!! ) Eventually , the toll roads peter out and we're heading smoothly along BTW if you stick to the speed limit on H'way 528 you'll find a lot of Americans hanging on to your boot...OK, trunk ! You WILL break the speed limit! Anyway I've brought my licence today after forgetting it on Saturday....
After 40 minutes of a pretty boring road we turned on to SR405 and the Kennedy signs appeared, Now it was getting exciting!!! We got confused when we passed the US Astronaut Hall of Fame ....but Kennedy is about a mile or so further on, in we swung and drove into a fairly empty looking car-park. We trooped up to the Space Center ( American spelling! ) pay booths...BTW it's no longer free to get into Kennedy, I believe it used to be free and you paid for the IMAX, tours etc. as you fancied them...No longer ! they've invested some serious money and they want it back! I forget the cost , but it was about $65...we used a $5 per. person discount coupon, which made a significant saving!!!!so we ended up paying about $45. For this you get the " Maximum Access Badge " see details below ! At this point I have to say they are VERY, VERY slow in processing people through the pay booths, it took us nearly 15 minutes on a quiet day...lessons needed from the mouse in this department! I hope they sort this before high season arrives......
The admission ticket covers you for both IMAX theatres, bus tours etc. The only bit not included is the "priority v.i.p. pass" which takes you to some of the original launch pads......believe me there is so much to do and see at Kennedy that you'd be pushed to fit it in , unless you really MUST see it all , I'd save your cash.
The program for the day included a talk by a real astronaut!!! plus photo opps. with him .
Since it was 10.30 and time for the first astronaut of the day we headed for Astronaut Encounter......the usual pre-amble from a lady in red preceded the arrival of our astronaut...Rick Searfoss, who arrived to a tumultuous welcome from the 20 or so in the audience...well, if 20 people can be tumultuous!! At the end of his talk , which was very interesting btw, he asked if anyone had any questions, to my surprise a voice from my left piped up " Yes, why did you want to be an astronaut,Rick ? and can you give me some advice on how to be an astronaut , because I want to be an astronaut and we don't have any space centres in England"......it was Callum , my DS...what was he on about????? He'd never mentioned the subject in his life! Rick gave a 5-minute account of his young life and then got Callum to come up while he introduced him as " our young astronaut in the making...." I was so flabbergasted I forgot to get the video out!!! I asked DS what made him get up to speak and he shrugged his shoulders...kids...........!
After the chat we hit the Milky Way Parlour for a warm drink (the sun obviously hadn't heard it was supposed to be out! )then on to the Imax theatres, the show we went into was based on the life of a young girl living in a space station centuries in the future. It was a 3-D film called L-5, First City in Space,and was pretty absorbing , but really I'd come here to see rockets, so it didn't get my full attention. The rest of the family enjoyed it tremendously, and Juliet tells me to recommend it to you...so I have.
Swinging left out of the theatre we went into Rocket Garden ...not perhaps the most thrilling of names and there they were , rockets of every size (but not of every shape ! ) and at the back was the grandaddy of them all...the Saturn 5. WOW, WOW, WOW !!!! Until you see this piece of history in the real , you can not conceive of the impact it will have on you! The hairs on my neck stood on end, I can't possibly describe the impact this behemoth had on me , and I'm no space geek, just a normal guy. it is truly incredible , 380 feet long and the biggest object ever to fly! Even DW was amazed by it, although the kids had spotted the play-dome so they were off to enjoy themselves. We wandered around the Rocket Garden for some time reading the info. boards on the various rockets , sounds boring but it's not, it's real living history. Hey, this place is making me into Mr. Sombre....
Rounding up the kids we hit the Center for Space Education.....this place will make you weepy, it is SO FULL of space history. There is a continuous background commentary and when we entered the first words we heard were "...one small step for man..." , it was the actual commentary from the first moon landing and it made me tingle!!! Everything is in here , from mock-ups of Sputnik 1 , the Apollo missions , 3-D life size photos of astronauts ( we took photos of the kids against them and they look SO real !! ) It really was awesome and we spent a good hour during which even the kids were transfixed , plus there were interactive displays for them to toy with. I needed to compose myself after this so we went for a wander around the Space Walk of Honour ( o.k....) and finished up at the Astronaut Memorial, dedicated to all those who lost their lives in the name of space exploration.......a good way to restore my sombre mood.....thank goodness I 'm not suicidal!!
By now it was about 1 p.m. and we decided to have lunch before taking the bus tour , so we finished up at Planetary Pizza.........all I can say is the food was reasonably priced and better than theme parks at home, but do not go to Kennedy for the culinary experience, 'nuff said!
We boarded a tour bus about 1.30...which gives you some idea about the food!.... We set off for our 3 stop trip , first stop was at the grandly named Launch Complex 39 Observation gantry..... you get dropped off and can stay for as long as you want since a bus comes by every 3-4 minutes. This was by far the least exciting part of Kennedy...you climb up a set of stairs and look around at the various launch areas etc. The launch areas are interesting enough but you see them equally as well from ground level, all the land at Kennedy is dead flat and the pads and towers stand 200-400 feet high so you're not exactly going to miss them! Right, on the bus , next stop please! BTW the buses have little T.V. monitors which give you info. on the next bit of your journey.....well worth listening to.
Next up was Stop 2 surprisingly enough...the Apollo/Saturn 5 Center, and this was the absolute highlight of our day.Once assembled inside the entrance the doors closed, the lights went down and we got the full treatment...emotive music, the deep , manly voice and on with the show!Those of you who've been given the full treatment know what I mean , only the Americans can do this and it was fabulous!!! At this point I can't remember the full sequence of our tour but among the highlights we finished up in a mock-up of a control room during a count-down for an Apollo mission , and I was by now suffering from a terminal case of my hair standing on end! It couldn't have been more real if we'd been
there , some of the effects within the room were beyond belief , I won't spoil it for anyone who might visit Kennedy, but it was past description. We then got a video talk from Jim Lovell about the mission, he finished by explaining he'd been on another mission after the one we'd just seen launched....it was called Apollo 13..and as he said "that's another story!" By now I had tears in my eyes and a lump in throat and I wasn't the only one judging by the sniffles ,and in some cases , sobs I could hear around me......seriously, folks if you go to the Apollo center take tissues!!! What we were watching was real life , history and some of the bravest men and women alive,in some cases not alive.
Enough of this morose stuff......... we passed through into the main hall where a fuul-size Saturn 5 took pride of place surrounded by the flags of all the space missions, AWESOME!! There was guy in an astronaut suit , so the kids got their photos taken and were beaming , they absolutely loved it and are still convinced it was a real astronaut(and who am I to say they're wrong ? ) we spent a lot of time in this Center and were quiet for most of it , probably because it was such an intense experience.
We got on to our bus but neither of us wanted to get off at the 3rd. stop , International Space Station.....nothing could add to what we'd seen over the last hour and a half...and we stayed on to go back to the main centre. On the way we back we saw the landing runway for returning space shuttles, and our driver pointed out local wildlife , including a couple of alligators , and the nest of a bald eagle...we were lucky enough to see the eagle too. BTW all the drivers are well versed in customer relations and very informative!
Back at base we visited the Shuttle Explore which is a full size space shuttle which you can walk through , the kids were thrilled!!
We then saw the second IMAX show , " The Dream is Alive" which uses a lot of actual footage shot by astronauts during real missions , what astounded me is the matter of fact way these heroes' talk and behave in such extraordinary circumstances!
It was getting on for 5 p.m so we decided to visit the Space Shop for souvenirs before heading home.This shop has some very up-market souvenirs!!! and matching prices! The upper level in particular is awesome...some of the pieces on sale are beautiful. Having said that some of the price tags would have easily financed a space mission ......
We got some really attractive posters and cards, while the kids decided on models of space shuttles, and a Kennedy sweat-shirt for DD.
By the time we'd finished it was closing time and we left, pausing only to pick up info sheets and maps as souvenirs. Everybody was in agreement that this had been an absolutely fantastic day, DW and Emilia had been reluctant to go to Kennedy but were now true converts, Callum was now determined that he'd sacrifice his career as a Premiership footballer so that he could be an astronaut...for now, anyway! Perhaps the most obvious sign of what a day it had been was that both kids were asleep within 10 minutes of setting off on our journey back to Kissimmee......brilliant!
P.S. Having re-read this report it's not in my usual "style" of writing which ( I hope ) is light-hearted. I can only say in my defence that this is how Kennedy affected me. while I enjoyed every minute I spent in Florida the visit to Kennedy had a real emotional impact on me , and is an experience I hope to repeat.
Tomorrow, back to the real world!!!! A visit to the Magic Kingdom.........
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