By Susan and Simon Veness
The space shuttles have flown their final missions, but Kennedy Space Center is still home to one of the most spectacular sights in Florida. If you’ve seen a rocket launch you’ll know what we mean. If not, it’s something you won’t want to miss, even if it means getting up at silly-o’clock to see it...
We attended the 19 July Atlas V launch, starting our journey at 5am for a 6:30am check-in. When we arrived at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex a small queue had already formed at the turnstiles, and everyone waited groggily for the gates to open at 8am. Once inside the complex, we headed directly to the buses that would take visitors to the launch site. It was all very well organised, with today’s viewing area just behind the Apollo Saturn V Center, with a lake between us and the launch pad. In no time we were settled in with a breakfast sandwich and juice from the café inside the Saturn V building.
Top Tip: Take bug spray. The viewing areas are generally along water, and those annoying little no-see-ums have a way of feasting on unprotected flesh. We left our bug spray in the car, and within minutes we looked like winners in the Spotty McSpotmeister contest. Not only that, but those little bites itch…and for a long time, too! The gift shop near the viewing area does sell bug spray, but at $9.99 for a 4 ounce bottle, you’re better off bringing your own. Don’t be like us.
At 191 feet tall and nearly 13 feet in diameter, it wasn’t difficult to see the rocket even from our vantage point 5 miles away. We chose seats at the top of the bleachers, and this turned out to be a good choice, as those who had front-row bench seats were blocked by visitors standing along the fence and on the walkway in front of the bleachers. These guests were asked to “crouch down” when launch time came, but people being people, this did not happen.
As we waited, a representative held a Q & A session, first telling us about the space programme, and then taking our questions. He informed us the payload this time included Mobile User Objective System satellite (MUOS-2), a vital communications system that will help military troops to communicate in difficult terrain, such as jungles, urban canyons, and in hostile “hot spots” around the world. But when asked if that was all it carried, he said, “No. There are also things we’ll never hear about.”
A speaker had been set up, and occasionally we heard communications coming from Mission Control. An upper-level weather pattern had developed and it was possible the launch would be scrubbed for the day. However, a second check half an hour later revealed the launch was a ‘go’, and we all joined in with the final countdown. As we reached 3-2-1, a gigantic cloud of steam rose from below the rocket, and a blindingly bright light appeared as the rocket slowly began to rise. Within micro-seconds, the rocket and its enormous fuel blast were streaking into the clouds. Minutes later a roaring shock wave reached us and the crowd went wild! Mission Control kept us updated on the rocket’s progress, and although we could only see the rocket for 10 seconds or so, the crowd was following it in spirit until it was safely on its way. It was a magnificent sight, and we agreed we would return for another launch. Perhaps not so early next time!
There are public launch viewing sites south of Port Canaveral and in the Cocoa Beach area, but the best seats are at the Space Center itself. There are metal bench seats (bring a towel in case it rained before you arrived) and lots of standing room, but the view is incredible. When the shock wave and the sound of lift-off hit you, you know you’ve experienced something special. And remember, Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex stays open during rocket launches, making it a perfect day away from the busier pace in Orlando.
Arabian Nights has just debuted a new dinner show in honour of their 25th Anniversary, titled The Royal Celebration. Prince Raswan and Princess Amirah from powerful Bedouin kingdoms share a love of Arabian horses. Their passion for these beautiful animals turns into a love for each other, and a royal wedding becomes the setting for showing off the skills of both horses and riders.
Some acts you’ll recognise from previous Arabian Nights shows, some are completely new, including circus-acrobatics style riding. The Black Stallion still features, as do the mystical unicorns, and in best dinner show style there is always an element of the unexpected. Will the wedding go off unimpeded, or is there trouble afoot? Our money is on a dramatic and unwelcome surprise.
The wedding meal includes a choice of pot roast, pulled pork, chicken tenders, or chicken pasta, with kid’s chicken tenders or kosher meals available. Soft drinks and dessert (wedding cake, of course!) are included. Alcohol is currently additional, but with the trend in Orlando dinner shows moving back to including two beers or two glasses of wine, we’ll see if the extra charges last.
When Attraction Tickets Direct’s ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ competition was announced, we thought it would be fun to do a little video, not to win, but…well…mostly because we could. We popped over to Epcot to do ours and it turned into a real laugh, with curious park-goers watching us out of the corner of their eyes. Yeah, we looked silly, but we had a blast doing it. Several people have asked if acting ability matters in this particular competition, and we’re happy to say it doesn’t (the winner is selected at random)! So get those cameras and smart phones out and enter your 20 second “Top Tip or Best Memory” video (don’t forget to include one of those two things!). It’s easy, it’s fun, and it could win you a £5000 Orlando holiday. It doesn’t get much better than that, now does it?
Go check out ourLet The Good Times Roll video, too. It’s the second one from the top under ‘see what others are doing’ and it’ll make you say “Geez...if they can do it, I can do it!’
Restaurant Recommendation: Spending the day at Kennedy Space Center but tired of the same old burger/hot dog/pizza offerings? Try [B]Rocket Garden Café[/B] for a more interesting—and healthier—menu, including a Blackened Mahi-Mahi sandwich with Pineapple Sauce, Asian Chicken Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Ancho Pork Sandwich, and a superb Mediterranean Flat Bread Pizza. Weary from all of your touring? They offer beer and wine, but it’s the delightfully sinful Cheesecake Bites that will really revive you!
Favourite Quote of the Week:Standing next to a little boy looking at a peacock at Busch Gardens, we overheard him say, “That bird looks fake. It’s not fake, but it looks fake. So it’s the opposite. It’s not fake but it looks fake but it’s real.”
Headed to Orlando for the summer holidays? Be sure to check out Attraction Tickets Direct's Orlando attraction tickets for your venture into the theme park capital of the world!