Kennedy Space Center–Part 1 of 2

Entrance Gate to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

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.


Atlas-Agena Rocket

NASA Kennedy Space Center entrance

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).

Shuttle “stack”

Kennedy Space Center Wikipedia 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.


Mural of International Space Station and flags of all the countries who participate in the program


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.

Photo of Earth with ISS in center


This Saturn 1B rocket made nine launches between 1966 and 1975.

Saturn 1B Rocket


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.

Heroes and Legends Exhibit

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

  1. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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.

    • 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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 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.

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. 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.

    • 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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. 🙂 🙂

  10. 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.

    • 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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