Space history leaps off the screen to greet guests at NASA complex
October 18, 2023
— Guests arriving at NASA's Kennedy Space Center can now see a space shuttle launch, a SpaceX Starship land on the moon and, just a few seconds later, astronauts walk on the surface of Mars, all before they pass through the turnstiles to enter.
Officials at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Wednesday (Oct. 18) unveiled the "Kennedy Entry Experience," a 3,000-square-foot (280-square-meter) video wall that offers a first look at the history and future that awaits guests inside.
"The entrance area is the beginning of our visitors' journey so this was a great opportunity to tell more of the NASA story and highlight the past, present and future of space exploration," said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, in an interview with collectSPACE.
The new six-minute spectacular takes viewers on a journey through the first 60 years of the U.S. space program, from the early days of the space race to modern-day operations on the International Space Station. The presentation then goes beyond, into the near future when commercial spaceflight companies and NASA plan to lead the way back to the moon and then onwards to Mars.
The display, which uses attention-grabbing technology to make images appear to launch off the screen, is narrated by the late President John F. Kennedy, whose speech takes on new meaning when paired with imagery of NASA's present and future activities in space, rather than the Apollo-era for which it was written.
"John F. Kennedy is an important part of NASA's history, he committed the nation to an ambitious goal of landing humans on the moon. You will note that his words are used throughout the visitor complex as a reminder of that time period and what motivated and guided NASA's space program," said Protze. "His speech was used as a guideline for the story the entrance experience tells."
The Kennedy Entry Experience takes the place of a 75-foot-long (23-meter) blue granite fountain, which featured the likeness and a quote from Kennedy, the center's namesake. Guests can still see the former tribute to the president, but now as part of the opening scene projected by the towering video installation.
Like the fountain before it, the Kennedy Entry Experience stands next to a large 3D sculpture of NASA's insignia, which has become a popular photo backdrop, and is adjacent to where guests enter the complex. The wall is sponsored by SNA Displays, which has created large digital signs for New York City's Times Square and at sports and entertainment venues across the country. The animation was created by the New York-based multimedia tech and design studio Blunt Action.
In addition to playing the six-minute show multiple times a day, the digital wall is capable of wayfinding and event advertising and is integrated into the complex's emergency system to alert guests of inclement weather. The display can also support live-input video.
"We do have the capability to stream launches and other content on the screen," said Protze, "so that is something to look forward to in the future."
The new entry experience at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex tells the story of NASA's past, present and future on a 3000-square-foot (280-square-meter) video display. (collectSPACE)
The internal workings of a Mercury-Redstone rocket are displayed on the Entry Experience opposite the display of the same booster in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's Rocket Garden. (cS)
A space shuttle orbiter appears to extend from the Kennedy Entry Experience screen, as full-size replicas of the space shuttle's solid rocket boosters and external tank stand in the background. (cS)
An astronaut on a spacewalk works to repair a panel on the Kennedy Entry Experience screen in a "fourth-wall" breaking scene on the new video wall outside of NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. (collectSPACE)