July 20, 1969. Every eye was glued to the television to watch the first astronaut, Neil Armstrong, walk on the moon and plant the American flag. We watched John Glenn circle the Earth, but the moon…Wow! My little brother, age 5 at the time, also named Neil, was doing cartwheels—he was convinced he was named after this famous astronaut. Mom?
Much of this activity took place at the Kennedy Space Center on the central Atlantic coast of Florida and we visited there yesterday. To preserve and share the excitement of the Space Age, the Kennedy Space Center has built a fantastic place to visit. It ranks right up there with famous cathedrals and museums and even some of the natural wonders, in our opinion.
With the purchase of a general admission ticket, we loaded a bus from the main visitor center to be taken to two locations on the sprawling Kennedy Space Center complex. The first stop was the “The Gantry” with spectacular views of the launch complex that shot the shuttles into space. Next stop, the building housing the massive Saturn V (rocket boosters in the picture on the left) and the original control room (above, left). Whoever designs the displays is a genius—the control room comes alive with an interactive movie—lighting up each console as the voice of the operator prepares the launch. Another movie presentation is of the journey to the moon incorporating a staged landing (actually moving the craft from the “sky” to the “moon surface”), with a mock-up of the astronauts and real gear all within view of a distant earth and stars beyond. Back at the visitor center there are three museums of original equipment, suits, log books, the actual rockets staged outdoors, interactive displays and two IMAX 3D movies of the Hubble Telescope and the Space Station.
In one of the museums we met a current astronaut, Tom Jones. He asked where we are from and after learning we were from the Pacific Northwest, he wanted to know all about the Tillamook museum and blimp hanger built during World War II (we visited two summers ago). He wants to visit there someday. Too funny.
Although the current Space Program is a mere shadow of its former glory, especially with the end of the shuttles last summer, it still launches rockets on a monthly basis. The launches deliver satellites into space orbit for the military and for commercial purposes. We had the fortune of witnessing one of the rocket launches a couple of weeks ago. Promptly at 7:38 p.m. there was a brilliant light heading for the heavens with an impressive vapor trail following, up and up it went, until there was a blink and it was gone. If we were impressed with a rocket, the shuttle launches must have been unbelievable.
The recommendation of the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” was spot on with the Kennedy Space Center. The description of “AWESOME” is over used, but this place was simply AWESOME!