It wasn’t my idea to visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The site of the launches for the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions wasn’t high on my list of must-sees on this roadtrip across the USA.
But I am one person in a family of four and the three of the family members are major space nerds.
I’m talking Star Wars, Star Trek – Cosmos – Stephen Hawking- level science geeks. And for them this was a must-see.
I agreed to go mostly because I didn’t have a choice.
Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t expecting torture. I remembered from a previous visit that there were some cute exhibits and artifacts (the moon rock) that were on site and available, but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do well with information being pushed out at me non-stop over a megaphone so I expected to spend most of the day in a happy daze.
That wasn’t what happened.
We drove the Equinox to the Center and arrived in time for our lunch with an astronaut tickets. The program allows you to sit for a hot lunch while listening to a real astronaut tell you what space is like. We took the boys to it years ago when they were 6 & 8 . They were interested then. This time they were enthralled.
J.O. Creighton spoke about his adventures in a way the kids and the adults in the room could relate to. And graciously posed for photos after. We were off to a great start.
Our next stop was the bus tour. Off we went on what I thought was the same tour I’d taken years earlier. It wasn’t. Perhaps because the shuttle program has been decommissioned or maybe we were just on another tour last time, but this tour went closer to the launch pads and gave us more information than I remembered.
We snapped shots of launch pad 39A where all of the Apollo moon launches started. We heard stories about the flora and fauna in the 140,000 acres of land owned by NASA and we saw the largest painted flag in the USA. It was all pretty impressive.
That tour ended at the Apollo/Saturn V Center where we then walked through and learned about JFK’s role in the moon landing attempts, the explosion of Apollo 1 and gained a better understanding of the bravery of these men in venturing out into the unknown.
After a fascinating clip reel of video footage from news broadcasts around the time of the moon landing we were ushered into a series of rooms that brought you into what it would feel like to be in the control room at the time of a successful moon landing. You could feel the tension of the operators and feel the rumble at take-off as well as the fear when communications stalled at critical moments of the mission. As a lover of a story told well I was in awe.
From there we took a bus back over to the main campus where we’d started and popped into the Atlantis exhibit. This was my favourite. I don’t want to spoil it for you but don’t miss this one. It is the right mix of drama and information and it culminates in a way that had the entire audience offering audible gasps.
The rest of the building is a fantastic mix of interactive play areas for kids and adults. It’s like a mini-science centre where you can try your hand at the Canadarm (so proud!) or understand the relationship between gravity and the space shuttle’s velocity. And there’s even a flight simulation that is so realistic I was trying to sort out which way was up when we were done.
And there was still more we could’ve seen and done but it was closing time.
What I had thought would be a couple of hours max had lasted six hrs and none of us would’ve given back a minute of it. In fact we could have easily spent another day here and not run out of things to do.
Best of all it felt like the kids were learning something in a way that was fun and interactive. They gleaned information that will no doubt become relevant again when they are studying science at school in the years to come.
It was an incredible outing. One I’d highly reccommend even if you, like me, are only barely science-friendly.
Just the Facts:
We booked our tickets through the Expedia app – Expedia.ca recently updated the app to allow for activities bookings on-the-go.. The package included the bus tour, lunch with an astronaut and access to all of the exhibits.
We are on a 30-day roadtrip across the USA. We started in Toronto and will finish in Vancouver seeing as much of the USA as we can. To follow along on Twitter visit #globetrottingmama or #ExpediaRoadtrip.