A Trip to Florida’s Space Coast

Along the Florida coast, the Atlantic’s rolling waves caress the mind. On a clear night, launches from the Kennedy Space Center illuminate the heavens.

A Saturn V rocket, among the biggest launch vehicles in history, is housed in a walk-through warehouse exhibit at the Space Center. Visitors find the sheer mass and complexity of the rocket daunting. The tangled mess of fuel hoses and pipes is the end result of decades of guidance research. Years of trial and error led to the design, including rockets that either crashed unsuccessfully or blew up on the launch pad. The American research began with the Army in the later 1940’s and early 1950’s in the American Southwest. An early milestone was the 71-mile altitude mark.

The Rocket Garden is a collection of smaller rockets. Visitors can walk though the garden, inspect the rockets, take a look at an actual rocket capsule, and sit in a space capsule facsimile.

Try to avoid spies and have fun. Don’t get to know any Eastern European-types who speak with accents and wear drab clothing and a Cold War-grimace.

Don’t miss the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which includes a well-done Imax Theater. Kids and amateurs will learn much from the exhibits. Many of the early astronauts are chronicled in the museum. One video is an interview with a National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronaut who believed he saw an Unidentified Flying Object while in space. Such reports don’t usually emanate from such credible sources.

Another exhibit shows the Apollo 13 Mission. Millions of television viewers prayed for the safe return of the astronauts after a disaster left the vessel incapable of a lunar landing. The three astronauts returned miraculously in a truly memorable mission.

The Space Center is located at Exit 215 on I-95. Take SR 50 East to SR 405 East to the Center. Hours are 9am to 6pm. Astronaut Hall of Fame hours are 12pm to 6pm. Admission for the Center and the Hall of Fame is $43. Admission for the Hall of Fame only is $20.