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Excursion from Orlando: NASA at the Kennedy Space Center

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During the trip through the southeast of the United States we were in Orlando, in the state of Florida. This area is famous for theme parks of the Disney and Universal, in addition to some others. The goal of almost all tourists who go to Orlando is to visit one of these parks. However, if you go to Orlando There is an essential visit that you must do and that is not an amusement park, although it seems like it! On the Atlantic coast of Florida, very close to Orlando extends the mythical Cape Canaveral, from where the POT launches rockets and ferries into space since 1958. Next to the facilities of the POT there is the Kennedy Space Center, which is the visitor center. And it is spectacular. Then I tell you why.

Like many other children, I dreamed of being astronaut. Then it happened to me, of course, but space is a source of imagination and emotion, it is the great unknown, a mystery to explore, zero gravity where you can float, science fiction ... That's why you always have that admiration by people who embark on a trip out of the atmosphere, either those who came to the moon or those who work in the international Space Station. Putting more feet on the ground, lately I thought that the millionaire expense that space research entails would be better dedicated to other things, such as caring for our planet, instead of looking for others where to go. However, after the visit to NASA and the Kennedy Space Center I convinced myself otherwise, and that is they have it very well mounted. But we better go in parts.

He Kennedy Space Center is located in the famous Cape Canaveral and from the area of Kissimini it takes one hour by car As almost all the way is by highway, nothing heavy is getting there. On the highway we find the following tolls: $ 1.50 + $ 1.50 + $ 1.00 + $ 1.25 = $ 5.25 each way. We pay by activating the Sunpass of the rental car. He Kennedy Space Center It has parking but you have to pay $ 10.

You can buy the tickets in the Web of the Kennedy Space Center, but we bought them there. There are some box office and some machines where you can buy the basic ticket and optional packages. Once the ticket was purchased we went to information Center to help us organize the visit.

To start, the arrival can be a bit confusing if you have not planned the visit in advance. You arrive and they give you a brochure with all the additional activities what you can do, in addition to those that enter for the price of the ticket. Sure, the basic entry It is not exactly cheap: 50$. And the extra activities are $ 25 more. You have to think: is it worth doing an extra activity? Will I have time to see it all in one day? It can be overwhelming.

The visitor complex of Kennedy Space Center It opens at 9 in the morning and closes at 6 (or 7 in the afternoon according to season) but I already tell you that 9 hours are short to see everything. Anyway, it is better to arrive just when they open. It is also highly recommended to arrive prepared and knowing what you want to see. You can check the closing hours in this link.

To know what to do, a good idea is check the website from the visitor center. There you will see a link where it says «Trip planner». You answer three questions and they plant a 8 hour itinerary to get the most out of the visit. You can also configure the visit in more detail and more to your liking. It's fine because it specifies you what it takes in each activity and so you get the idea of ​​what will give you time to see and what not. And if you are a fan of space research and you really want to see it all, extending the visit to one more day costs + $ 25.

We buy tickets at the machines in front of the ticket offices to take less time. We quickly review the extra activities and, without thinking too much, we add the «KSC Explore Tour»For + $ 25. Then we enter the Information Office, just to the left of the entrance, to guide us. In two minutes they made us a basic plan of the things we should see and do, and in what order, so we quickly passed through the entrance door to the center. The first activity was to go see the room «Heroes & Legends», Just to the left when entering. The building faces the Rocket garden, an open space where you can see several reproductions of the first rockets that were launched into space. But first of all, we had breakfast. Without breakfast you cannot start your day well. At Rocket Garden Cafe, a coffee latte We got it for $ 2.90 and a chocolate cupcake for $ 2.99.

Heroes & Legends

Once prepared, we focus on the itinerary. We went to the entrance of «Heroes & Legends»And, suddenly, they stopped us at the door without understanding why. It turns out that before entering you pass a video and until the room is empty, you cannot pass. This is a process that was repeated several times in the Kennedy Space Center and that is designed to better manage the tails In high season. Luckily, we went to mid March, during the week, and we had no problems. In about 15 minutes or less we were already inside. They gave us some 3D cinema glasses and first we saw a introduction video, which deals with the definition of what a hero or heroine is.

At the end, we enter the movie theater itself, where there is a large screen before some balconies where you see the video standing. This video, also very well done, extols the space race and bravery of NASA astronauts in a very exciting way. When it's over, you're already in the proper mental attunement to see the exhibition In this review the virtues of every good astronaut, as curiosity, tenacity, etc., accompanied by astronaut testimonials and objects of what influenced them in their career (like the series Buck rogers!). Then go through a reproduction of the launch control room of the mission Mercury of 1962 (if you have seen the movie Hidden Figures, it is very similar). Various objects of various missions, videos ... In the end, you arrive at a room where there are portraits of all NASA astronauts and before leaving you have to pass, of course, a souvenir shop.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

The next point of the visit was the lounge «Space Shuttle Atlantis», Absolutely recommended because here you can see one of the ferries that has made the round trip to the international Space Station nothing less than 33 times. Right at the entrance you can pass under a reproduction of the immense launch and transport rockets into orbit. And as in the previous room, before entering the exhibition itself, they make you go to a room where they spend a introductory video Very spectacular, it prepares you for what you are about to see. It is very well done, because the screen covers the wall at the back of the room and continues through the ceiling and side walls.

Once in the exhibition the mole of Atlantis ferry Space dominates and captures all eyes. It is suspended from the ceiling, so you can see it from all sides and it has an open loading area and an extended mechanical arm. Next to him there is a series of soffits with interactive screens where you can learn all its parts and a lot of details. For example, did you know that having no washing machine, Atlantis astronauts changed their briefs and shirts every other day? Or that most of what comes out of the exhaust pipe is water vapor?

Going up some stairs behind you can see a backpack with thrusters for trips outside the ship that in the end little was used because it is safer to be tied to the ship with the umbilical cord and not get far away. To the side there are a series of consoles where you can practice some aspects of the operation of the ferry and the work that astronauts do. For example, a kind of simulator where it represents that you are out of the ferry with your astronaut suit and you have to get to a point where to make some repairs. For that you have to move your arms and in principle some sensors detect the movement and reproduce it on the screen, but I thought that these did not work very well.

Beyond there is a reproduction of the cabin and you can sit on the pilot's seat, hold the control lever and turn on the hundreds of switches of those of levers that are seen in the movies. You can even see the engine of the ferry, surrounded by interesting explanations. For example, here I learned that the engine's exhaust pipes are heavily cooled so that the jet does not melt them due to the intense heat.

On the lower floor you can learn what some details of the life of astronauts One always wonders: food, toilets and beds. And there is an entire area with a kind of video game machines that are actually simulators of various activities of astronauts. For example, we tried one that consisted of using the remote to land the ferry on his landing strip. We got it the first time, but maybe it was the beginner's luck, because the second attempt ended in disaster.

It should be noted that the exhibition is designed for enjoyment both adults and children. If you are interested in learning interesting details of space shuttle trips, there is a lot of material here, but if you go with children, they will have a good time getting around pipes representing the international space station or going down the slide which simulates how astronauts descend from the shuttle after landing. Finally, the visit includes a attraction as an amusement park: the «Shuttle Launch Experience»Which simulates a vertical take-off of the ferry. It is fun.

Finally, we go down a ramp where the crews of all the astronauts and I remember standing in front of the photo of the Challenger crew. And it wasn't until days later that I noticed that the ferry exhibit also includes a theater on the Hubble space telescope (!) Even so, in the exhibition there was also a corner about this telescope and its successor, which will be so powerful that they say you can photograph areas near the beginning of the universe and thus better understand how it all began. But anyway, time flies by and you don't realize and it's time to eat. In the typical store at the exit of the exhibition they sold dried "astronaut" food, but we prefer something more "earthly."

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