Visitors first entering Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex are greeted by several authentic rockets towering above. Heads looking up to the sky, each person is handed a brochure with a map and exhibit information, and off we go, launched into the world of space.
This rocket below, the Atlas-Agena, was launched 109 times between 1960 and 1978.
The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is comprised of 700 facilities on 144,000 acres (580 km2); and has the distinction of being the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968.
This shuttle stack is a 184-foot (56 m) full-scale replica of what is needed for a space shuttle to be shot into space: external fuel tank (orange) with twin solid rocket boosters (white).
Kennedy Space Center Wikipedia
kennedyspacecenter.com for visitor information
Historic space programs like Apollo, Skylab, and the Space Shuttles were carried out here at KSC, while other space programs, like Gemini flights, were launched from adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Today this area, on the Atlantic coast of Florida, is bustling with robotic and commercial crew missions, and other missions dedicated to future off-Earth exploration. Launches occur regularly.
Much of it is a restricted area, but there is a large Visitor Complex open to the public.
The KSC Visitor Complex has numerous large buildings filled with exhibits and displays featuring the activities of the Hubble Telescope, International Space Station, Space Shuttle voyages, and more. Visitors can walk the grounds, or take a bus tour.
They also have space-ride simulators and other simulator rides, interactive exhibits, and daily presentations with veteran NASA astronauts. Numerous multimedia cinematic productions give in-depth information on various space projects from visiting Mars to how the Atlantis Space Shuttle was built.
Films can be seen in several different theaters, two of which are IMAX, as well as stand-alone videos, like this one below.
This Saturn 1B rocket made nine launches between 1966 and 1975.
Inspiration is the word that came to me most often on the day we visited the KSC. All the courage and genius of thousands of men and women, some who gave their lives, is embodied in this Complex.
This building, below, recently opened in 2016, has the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
My favorite exhibit houses the entire space shuttle Atlantis, a retired space orbiter that made 33 space missions in the course of 26 years, before it was retired in 2011.
Countdown for that: seven days.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.
60 thoughts on “Kennedy Space Center–Part 1 of 2”
Oh I think Dave would be very interested in visiting. So much history and I imagine not all of it successful. I had not realized how much research was going on presently. Do you suppose it is a bit unnerving living close by with all of those launches? I suppose folks are used to it. Not like me poking my head out the door on a frosty morning to see some rocket blasting off into outer space. Which would be an out of this world experience I assure you.
People get really excited when there’s a rocket launch, so I imagine lots of locals loves it, and some probably hate it. We originally planned to go to a scheduled rocket launch, but it was unfortunately cancelled just a few days before it was to take off. Rocket launches get cancelled frequently, I learned–weather, technical difficulties. The next rocket launch is on Dec. 19th, Sue, in case you and Dave want to escape the Canada weather and hang out in Cocoa Beach with the space nerds. Really fun to hear from you.
Thanks Jet. One day maybe we can make that happen. I know Dave would love it.
Very cool. I remember following the Apollo missions when I was a kid. It was all very exciting.
There were a lot of us roaming around the KSC, Timothy, remembering the days when the space program was in full swing…the excitement still so palpable. Thanks so very much.
How fun, Jet! It’s now where I expected to (virtually) find myself this morning, but I love it. Hugs on the wing!
What a joy to hear from you, Teagan, and I’m glad you could fly in for a trip to the moon. My best to you….
We’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center several times and have greatly enjoyed our visits. Thank you for this post Jet, really wonderful.
Then you know, Sylvia, how uplifting and lively the KSC is, since you’ve been there repeatedly. We had 5.5 hours here, and it wasn’t nearly enough, so I am certain I will be returning too. I like knowing that you’ve been there. As always, a pure delight to exchange greetings.
Even though I was there with you, I learned A Lot from your post… as usual. It was an awesome place.
It’s always a pleasure to do the research for the posts, because I, too, learn more. There’s so much raw stimulation and information in person, it’s impossible to absorb all the details. Sitting at the desk and tapping into several dozen resources and having the peace to assemble it all in my mind, that’s more calming. I like both, and am glad I can share it. I’m smiling, dear Nan, thinking of that day we had together at the KSC. Thank you.
What a great place to visit. I’m jealous. I got to see one of the last space shuttles go up, but from a patio in the Orlando area. We were a long ways off, but it was a nice clear view.
Oh, how thrilling to see a space shuttle leave Earth, Craig. Something you will never forget. Glad I could take you to the KSC today, thanks for taking the adventure with me.
It was pretty cool. It was a convention, so we had a cold bar and cocktails to enjoy while it went up. Love those cocktail shrimp with my alcohol.
It is simply amazing what the NASA has achieved. Just looking up at that rocket in the second photo gives a sense of awe.
You just nailed the true inspiration that emanated from the KSC, Anneli. It is, yes, simply amazing. And the good news is, even though it feels like that era is all over, there is still a lot of ingenuity and wonderful brilliance going on there every day. Thank you, Anneli.
My husband grandfather worked here forever. It was awesome to hear all the stories from his father. I could see the joy and pride in my husbands eyes taking his own son to see all the amazing things his great grandfather did!
I can imagine there were lots of stories and lots of smiles. Enjoyed hearing about it, thank you.
I’m reminded of the movie Hidden Figures which highlights (among other things) how large the complex is! Love the Rocket Fuel food truck. Did you try any rocket fuel coffee? Did it send you into orbit? ; )
I just about hit the sky when I saw that Rocket Fuel food truck, Jan. I’m glad you liked it too. Funny joke too. 🙂
That must be quite interesting, Jet. I also enjoyed the Rocket Fuel food truck. 🙂
They even made mustard and ketchup look like fun! Glad you enjoyed the post and Rocket Fuel food truck, Janet. Thank you very much.
Another wonderful essay + photos! We Canadians are quite proud of the Canadarm on the shuttle. 🙂
I bet you are proud of that Canada robotic arm, Frank. It was uplifting to see the unity of so very many countries cooperating in the international space endeavors, the space shuttles, the space station, etc. Thanks so much, Frank, for joining us on this trip to the moon today.
I enjoyed this, and would love to visit one day. The story of the ISS is one of hope and cooperation – what an achievement. In fact, all forms of space exploration are remarkable, at least the ones not devoted to war. The brave men and women involved in all this are really something.
Thanks, Jet, counting down to part two, and off to have some rocket fuel now!
Roger that, pc. I so enjoyed your comment, including the rocket theme, and agree whole-heartedly in applauding the space program and all the remarkable people who have devoted themselves to its progress. I hope your weekend soars. 🙂
very interesting, Jet. thanks for sharing 🙂
Glad you enjoyed it, Wilma. Thank you, as always, for stopping by.
The whole space program was for me like a dream in my teen years. I read every article and saw fantastic photos in LIFE magazine and collected articles and great photos from National Geographics. I wanted to be a pilot. I miss those days! It was a great feat for USA. Thanks for the post, my friend. 🙂
I really enjoyed your comment, HJ. Your excitement as a young person for the space program exemplifies what so many of us who grew up during the space era experienced. I’m glad I could bring it alive with the post, and hope you can stop by next week for Part 2. Always a pleasure to “see” you, my friend.
According to you great post, it seems that we should have to revisit there. Last time we visited it 1991. 🙂 Thank you.
How wonderful to have you drop by, Matti. I am impressed that you visited the Kennedy Space Center, it is a long way from Finland. And yes, you will have to revisit sometime, as they continue to build magnificent exhibits. Next week I will share more. Until then, I hope you have a pleasant week. Thanks so much.
We’ve visited several times, once for the first launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy February 2018. It was a class operation and very enjoyable, from the spectator point of view. Thanks for the revisit. Your text on the Atlas-Agena can be more clear — it was 109 rockets, launched 109 times — 109 times for the rocket type.
I’m glad you have had the opportunity to visit the KSC several times, Michael Stephen, and how thrilling to witness a SpaceX launch. RE the Atlas-Agena. When I researched it, I found it very complicated for myself and most lay readers, and simplified it for the post. So here we disagree.
Not as beautiful as your wildlife subjects and photos, but interesting nonetheless. The US has much to be ashamed of, but NASA and the space program are just wonderful.
I enjoyed your post. Sounds like a wonderful place to visit… I hope to go some day! 😊
Thank you, Jill, I’m glad you enjoyed this virtual visit to the Kennedy Space Center.
We visited the center a couple of decades ago with our daughter. She was amazed, so was I. Part of it is because her dad was invited as a scientist. 🙂 🙂
Oh what a great thrill that must’ve been, to be invited, a great honor. It’s a wonderful place to visit, I’m glad you’ve had the opportunity. Thank you Amy.
It looks like a fascinating – and unique – place to visit Jet!
Your words were a treat to receive, Andrea — yes, the Kennedy Space Center was exactly that: fascinating and unique. Thanks so much for your visit and words.
So much history contained in this place, Jet! I remember the days when the space missions were strong and regular and how glued we all were to our TV’s watching the rockets take off. I remember the horror of the Challenger launch that failed and the pain of loss millions felt. What an experience to have been able to be in the Kennedy Space Center. I’m just glad I live where I do. I’d be a tad nervous living near where rockets blast off from. Thank you for this post! I learned a lot here today!
Those were great days when the space program was at its most exuberant, to be sure. I enjoyed hearing your reminiscences, Amy, as mine are similar. I was happy to see there is still a lot going on there on Merritt Island, and what a treat to be amidst it all. I’m happy I could take you there with us, Amy. Thank you for chiming in.
You are so very welcome, Jet. Our paths haven’t been crossing recently and it just was so good to be here again!!
What an interesting place to explore and be in awe of what man can achieve ❣️
Yes, it was an interesting place to explore, Val, and I’m glad I could share it with you. It is a remarkable and inspiring adventure that humans have figured out ways to catapult out of orbit, and an honor to have wittnessed these accomplishments that still continue. My warmest thanks.
It is a marvelous place to visit, Jet. Our grandkids were ‘over the moon’ to see everything it had to offer, but I suspect the visitor’s shop was the most important to them. 😀 It’s so incredible to think of all the achievements and as you so rightly say ‘the courage and genius’ which has gone into the research and space exploration.
Yes, we are lucky to have the inspiration of the space program, and the Kennedy Space Center to highlight it. Glad you’ve been there, Sylvia, and you and your grandkids have enjoyed it. Many thanks.
I still find it totally amazing that we can explore the world beyond our little star in this way. In fact, I find the whole subject of space mind boggling, Jet 🙂 🙂
I find the whole subject of space mind boggling, too, Jo. Visiting the Kennedy Space Center has a way of making the reality more clear, without taking away the magic. I’m glad I could share it with you. Part 2, the finale, tomorrow. Thanks so much.
I’d like to be out at their desert site where they test the engines Jet! I’ve seen footage of it and its amazing!
There you go again, Wayne, getting me thinking about something I’d never ever pondered before. I can imagine it would be amazing to see the engine sites in the desert. Always a pleasure, my friend, thank you.
turns out Nasa tests their engines in Mississippi!
The stuff of dreams, and memories of watching various launches on tv come flooding back. This is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. Did you spend a full day here, or a couple of days, Jet? You must have been “over the moon” here. Thank you very much for this post, Jet.
Draco you would enjoy the Kennedy Space Center, and all it’s wonder. I’m not sure you would be able to find an elevated spot to take photos, but I’m sure you would find one. Might have to climb one of those rockets. 😉 We spent 5.5 hours there, and easily could have spent at least one full day, probably two. They post launch dates on the website, link below, but the launches often get scrubbed due to safety issues, so those are hard to plan (we tried). It’s a popular tourist destination, so summer is probably the most crowded time. We were there in early Nov. and it was populated, but not crowded. Part 2 of this series, the finale, tomorrow. Thanks so much.
What fun to revisit this fascinating place with you. My one and only visit was back in 1991 when my half-brother visited from Latvia. He was enamored of all things having to do with Space having been born when Juri Gagarin first flew out there….. Looks like it’s changed and improved quite a bit.
It is remarkable how much the space programs, in and out of the U.S., have evolved over the decades. I enjoyed hearing about your half-brother from Latvia, and his fascination, and yours as well. Thanks so much, Gunta. Always a pleasure to hear from you.
What a terrific tour! Excellent photos as well.
Thanks very much, Belinda. What a joy to share the Kennedy Space Center with you, I’m glad you enjoyed it.