Six Must-See Additions to Kennedy Space Center

Shortlists , Expert View Column
Six Must-See Additions to Kennedy Space Center
By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
It’s the home of NASA, rocket launches, and the spectacular Atlantis Space Shuttle. As if that wasn't enough to convince visitors to Orlando that a day at Kennedy Space Center should not be missed, we've got six more reasons that are out of this world.

Kennedy Space Center is making a massive investment in new and updated attractions over the coming years, and in 2016 there are six additions worth making the drive to the beautiful Space Coast even more worthwhile than ever.

A Beautiful Planet: Replacing the popular Hubble 3D IMAX film, documentary-style A Beautiful Planet tells the story of living and working on the International Space Station through interviews and video footage from the astronauts who have been there. Starting with their arrival at the ISS and ending with their departure 6 months later and a new crew arriving, it is captivating storytelling at its best.

From the beauty of mountains covered in snow, lightning storms in the clouds, the Aurora Borealis and a unique view of the world ‘without borders’ to the sobering effects of a changing climate, the show is at once inspiring and a call to action. One of the most spectacular sequences comes from footage of each country as seen from the ISS, lit up at night. Jennifer Lawrence narrates, but the real gems here are the astronauts’ insights.

 

Kennedy Space Center

 

Science on a Sphere: Images projected on a six-foot globe provide an approachable means of learning about the Earth, its climate, and the storms that rock its atmosphere. A quick change and you’re looking at Mars, or the moon, or other planets within our solar system. Complex concepts are made easy with the added bonus of space experts on hand to narrate and answer questions.

 

Kennedy Space Center

 

Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted: Next stop…Mars! It may be commonplace one day, but for now, there are challenges involved. This live theatre presentation and hands-on exhibit focuses on the future of space travel, inspiring young visitors to consider the explorer within.

Test your mettle against simulators and interactive games, check out two space rovers, then crawl inside a mock-up of the Orion crew capsule with three of your closest friends and stay there for 21 days, and you’ll have some idea of the difficulties involved in deep space exploration.

 

Kennedy Space Center

 

Forever Remembered: A small, unassuming, two-part exhibit with a massive emotional impact. First, the “Fallen Friends and Heroes” hallway focuses on each of the 14 men and women who lost their lives in the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle catastrophes. Told through simple personal belongings and commentary about their talents and passions beyond space travel, it is a moving tribute to their bravery and humanity.

An adjacent gallery showing news footage featuring the physical recovery of shuttle wreckage and the emotional recovery of family members is a difficult, but important, aspect that highlights the risks while serving as reminders of the attitude that inspired the poignant statement made by Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom: “If we die, we want people to accept it. We’re in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.”

 

Kennedy Space Center

 

Eyes on the Universe: NASA’s Space Telescopes: Presented through live narration and 3D clips, this new show follows the progress of exploring space via telescope, from the groundbreaking Hubble Space Telescope to the upcoming launch of the James Webb Telescope in 2018. Contrasting the Hubble and Webb telescopes’ abilities to see details of planets and galaxies through images that take viewers back 13.4 billion years in time, the presentation asks the question: how much more is there to the Universe that we have not yet seen, and are we alone? It only shows twice each day, so be sure to make time for it during your stay!

 

Kennedy Space Center

 

Cosmic Quest Adventure: Launch a rocket, build a colony on Mars, redirect an asteroid or perform tasks on board the International Space Station. This surprisingly challenging adventure game pits the wits of trainees (that’s you) against the challenges of space.

Geared primarily toward ages 8-16 (but anyone can play), the basic idea is you purchase a Cosmic Quest Badge with lanyard and Training Manual at one of several locations around the centre, then head straight to one of four Mission Assignment Stations (MAS) where Robonaut gives you the low-down on game-play. Choose one of the MAS missions and a NASA expert briefs you on what to expect, then you’re off to the Lab Stations indicated for your mission, and that (finding the stations!) is where the first challenge comes in.

 

Kennedy Space Center

 

After completing all your Lab missions, it’s time for the Adventure Challenge. Each mission and challenge will depend on the topic you chose at the start of the game, and, as you complete each Adventure Challenge, your performance is tracked via the email address you signed up with (on your mobile phone if you have an international calling programme). Complete your first Adventure Challenge with 3 Stars and you receive a Specialist Badge. Complete all of the Adventures successfully and you’ll be promoted to Commander!

Unless you arrive at opening time it will be difficult to get the most out of the Space Center and play the full sequence of games, so realistically, it’s best to save Cosmic Quest for a second (or more) visit and spend your first day at KSC experiencing the tours and other attractions. Or, limit yourself to just one game to get the feel of it, and focus on the rest during a return visit. Each of the 4 game locations are spread throughout the Space Center, at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the IMAX building, in Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted and in the Space Shuttle Atlantis building, and it takes time just getting to each of them.

At an additional $24.99 per badge over admission price it’s not an inexpensive option, so making a day of it to ensure you’ve done every challenge makes sense. And don’t worry if you find some of them a bit daunting; your Cosmic Quest Badge is good for an entire year of game-play. 

 

If you have any questions about the attractions in Florida, be sure to go online and ask the experts- Susan and Simon on the ATD forums.

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