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  KSC Visitor Complex: One day visit suggestions?

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Author Topic:   KSC Visitor Complex: One day visit suggestions?
Headshot
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From: Streamwood, IL USA
Registered: Feb 2012

posted 12-01-2014 12:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have never been to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, but will have a brief, maybe one-day opportunity in early January. Do any cSers have recommendations on what I should see during my little whirlwind visit?

My interest lies in Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, although I will try to see the space shuttle display. I am more interested in seeing vintage flight hardware than the Vehicle Assembly Building, LC 39A or B.

Thanks in advance for the suggestions.

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
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posted 12-01-2014 01:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The current bus tour goes up to the outer fences of 39A and B, closer than ever before. ALL tours end at the Saturn V building. If you're really pressed for time, when you get off that bus at the Saturn V building, go through the gift shop exit to the left of where everyone else is going and avoid the multimedia thing that takes a while...

Rick Mulheirn
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posted 12-01-2014 01:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Mulheirn   Click Here to Email Rick Mulheirn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Saturn V center and the Atlantis shuttle display are a must. The visitor center also has a good selection of Mercury and Gemini hardware as does the Astronaut Hall of Fame just 5 minutes down the road.

Greggy_D
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posted 12-01-2014 05:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Both replies above are superb. You are going to be pressed for time since there is a lot to see at KSC.

tlifan2
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From: Lawrenceville, GA 30043
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posted 12-01-2014 08:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tlifan2   Click Here to Email tlifan2     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you have a few minute to spare, take a quick glance at Atlantis. I recommend going in through the gift shop instead of the main entrance to the Atlantis exhibit. Walking straight through the gift shop will take you right to the shuttle itself.

Also take a look at the Mercury Control Center near the entrance to the visitor center. It was relocated from the original site on the Cape and, if you look on the wall behind you when you are viewing the control room, you will see one of the NASA meatballs that adorned the actual building.

GACspaceguy
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From: Guyton, GA
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posted 12-02-2014 06:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Arrive at 9 a.m. as that is the opening, closes at 6 p.m. this time of year and between Dec 26-30 it is open until 7 p.m. Buses to the Saturn V building do not start until 10 a.m. so you have time to take in the exhibits at the Visitor Center. (You can do a quick walking tour and come back later if you have time, only you will know what is best for you it that regard.)

When you go in take an immediate left to the Debus building to see a number of cool items, Apollo spacesuit, Gemini IX spacecraft, an unflown Mercury spacecraft and the Mercury Mission Control room. Come out, walk through the rocket park and take in the sights but do not miss standing beside the F-1 engine and walk through the Apollo swing arm to the White Room, the same walk the Apollo 11 astronaut took on the way to the moon.

Make your way to the Atlantis building from there but swing into the IMAX building as they were doing a new display last time I was there in October and it may be complete by now. You can see what movies and the time they are playing in case that is something you can or want to fit in (they do take some time though). You will also pass the Memorial Mirror so walk up the hill for that. Now you must decide if it is the Atlantis building or the buses first. I would do Atlantis and go in though the gift shop and come back to do the Launch Experience and the actual Atlantis entrance when you come back off the bus.

On the way to the buses stick your head in the Space Shop to see what astronaut will be there in the afternoon and what time, as they typically do a free signing opportunity in the late afternoon, the shop is the last thing that closes so it should be the last thing on your list to do and then you will not be carrying things around all day with the potential to lose them as well.

On the bus do the tour they give you but when they stop at the Saturn V building (you will be switching buses at the Gantry stop and the Saturn V building) make sure you spend some time in there as they have a couple of "show" type attractions. Also, and I say this only as some have missed it, make sure you go inside the room where Apollo 14 CM is on display as well as other items and spacesuits. It will be in the "vault" door just past the store on the left as you are walking toward the CSM display.

Once you come back to the visitor center you must then decide for yourself what you will spend your time on. If you plan on going to the Astronaut Hall of Fame (Wally’s Sigma 7 spacecraft is there as well as Gus’ spacesuit) know that it now opens at noon but closes at 5 p.m. and it will take about a 20 minutes, or more, based on where you parked at KSC and how long the walk is also if there is a boat going under the draw bridge.

Hope this helps a little.

sev8n
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From: Dallas TX USA
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posted 12-02-2014 10:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for sev8n     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GACspaceguy:
Hope this helps a little.

That helps a lot. Wish I'd had this info when I went back in '12, although I did get to go in the VAB that day and see Atlantis and Endeavour.

Skythings
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posted 12-02-2014 11:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skythings   Click Here to Email Skythings     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My last visit to KSC was for the Nov 30, 2000 night launch of STS-97 so please keep in mind that my opinion here is very dated. I had the opportunity to do most of the tours over three days at that time. There are just so many interesting things to see. No matter what tour you take, you will not be disappointed. You will drive by and see so many historical places and artifacts that it won't much matter.

The one tour which I was most surprised with was the "Cape Then & Now Tour." The tour took us to the original Cape Canaveral Air Force Station south of the river and along the east Atlantic coastline. We saw the original Hangar S where the Mercury program was based, the old block houses and Gemini launch sites, the astronaut beach house, the lighthouse. We stopped at the original launch site where Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom launched in the Redstone rockets. They took us on foot right up to original launch table. You stand right right there and touch and feel the place where the first US Spaceflights departed. You see the blast lines in the concrete and the guides do a great job of telling inside stories of the people of the day. One sobering stop was at Launch Complex 34, the site of the Apollo 1 fire. You were able to walk around the existing structure while the tour guide tells the story of Apollo 1, the fire, the investigation and how the fire affected the future Apollo missions.

There was a stop at an old museum with Mercury capsules, Goddard rockets, Chimp hardware, an old rocket garden where I was able to walk up to an original old Atlas rocket lying on its side. Touch and feel. Boilerplates etc. The tour ends at the Saturn V Building which is a must see.

(Video capture images)

Like I said, I'm sure it has changed since I took it, but looking at their website it still exists and would be my recommendation to you.

Here is the current link to the KSC Cape Then & Now Tour.

alanh_7
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From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
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posted 12-02-2014 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For a one day visit ,I would do the standard tour. Saturn V museum (don't miss the eagle nest on the way out the causeway), the rocket garden, Debus Center and of course Atlantis which is spectacular. I always take a quick visit to the memorial wall as well. That's a pretty full day.

I just did the Then and Now Tour in November and it is well worth doing. But it is likely for someone who has been the KSC and looking for something different.

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
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posted 12-02-2014 02:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The problem with the hall of fame is that it's open only from about noon until before the main center closes. If you leave the main visitor center, you'd have to pay to park there again if you go back the same day.

I was disappointed with the hall of fame when I was there in October, several displays I saw there in 2011 were no longer there and the gift shop was totally empty and sealed off. There ARE some cool things to see at the hall of fame for displays, but if it's a matter of seeing the hall of fame or something cool at the main center (such as Atlantis), I'd say bag the hall of fame completely.

I disagree on going on the Shuttle Launch Experience ride IF you're really pressed for time. That ride takes a while in lines and going through it. It's cool, but not, "I missed seeing something historical because of the ride," cool.

KSC is a horrible place to do quickly due to all the neat stuff there is to see there. I was lucky in October as I had three solid days to see everything I wanted, with two good space fan pals. We also hit the Valliant Air Command museum at the Tico airport one morning, which we all really enjoyed. It's a place many people drive right on by and don't realize when a good museum it really is...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-02-2014 02:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by p51:
I was disappointed with the hall of fame...
A new Astronaut Hall of Fame facility and expanded museum is set to open on the main campus of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in 2016.

ea757grrl
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From: South Carolina
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posted 12-02-2014 03:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was there in March and did the Visitors Center in a much-compressed two hours. Let me add my voice to those saying "do not miss the Atlantis exhibit under any circumstances." It is superb. Give yourself plenty of time to examine all the exhibits with Atlantis. There's a lot to see (and photograph) and it's all done first-rate.

The exhibits in the Debus Center are always a must. I was also lucky to catch the Astronaut Encounter right when Bob Springer was on his way in. Even if you know the stories (and you very well may, since it's for a general audience), it's still neat to hear them being told first-person.

Do the Space Shop last and give yourself a little time. Much of it is touristy/souvenir stuff, but there are some gems to be had, too. Books are on the second floor and the selection's pretty decent.

I've never done the bus tours, so I'll let others speak on that. I did stop at the Hall of Fame on the drive out, and it's well worth a quick visit if you'll have the time once it opens for the day. The exhibits there are pure catnip for space enthusiasts, but the museum itself needed some love when I was there. I'm glad to know it's getting a new home.

Whatever else you do, have a great time. Even a rushed visit to KSC is well worth it.

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 12-02-2014 06:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
A new Astronaut Hall of Fame facility and expanded museum is set to open on the main campus of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in 2016.
I didn't realize that, it all makes sense now. I wonder what'll happen to that massive Al Bean mural in that building though...

mjanovec
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posted 12-02-2014 06:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The OP said his interest lies with Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo...so I STRONGLY recommend doing the Cape Canaveral Then and Now tour. They only do one tour a day with limited seating on the bus, so you really should book it in advance.

This is what I would do: Arrive at the opening of the Visitor's Center and head straight to the launch experience (for the shortest wait time), then see Atlantis, visit the astronaut memorial mirror, visit the rocket garden, and then go the Debus Center to see the Mercury consoles and the Gemini IX capsule. If there is any time to kill before the Cape tour, perhaps wander through the main gift shop or check out an IMAX movie. Then take the Cape tour, which will end up at the Saturn V center (where you'll see the Apollo 14 Command Module and other artifacts from M-G-A). That will be a full day...and it will allow you to see as many M-G-A sites and artifacts as possible in one visit.

Remember, if you want to see where the first US satellite launched (Pad 26), where Alan Shepard launched (Pad 5), where John Glenn launched (Pad 14), where the Gemini missions launched (Pad 19), and also visit Pad 34, where the Apollo 1 fire occurred (and where Apollo 7 launched), your ONLY option is the Then and Now tour. Entering the old block houses at Pad 26 and Pad 5 is like stepping back 50+ years in time. (The entire place is like a time capsule full of vintage hardware.) And standing under the launch pedastal at Pad 34 is a truly haunting experience...miles from the gift shops and shrill commercialism of the Visitor's Center. You can feel the history while standing there.

Headshot
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From: Streamwood, IL USA
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posted 12-04-2014 11:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the great inputs. They have given me a good idea of some of the things that we can see.

Unfortunately, our schedule will be determined by how fast we can all get up, have breakfast, and drop the kids off at the Disney theme park of their choice. Then we will hightail it to KSC. Atlantis is a must (can't wait to see my wife's reaction) and I am strongly leaning towards the Then & Now Tour, although I afraid it will depress me.

Weather and time will dictate the rest.

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
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posted 12-04-2014 02:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, you really WILL be pressed for time. I think you need to forget doing any of the extra tours at all and focus only on what's at the visitor center, see all that, and only then do the normal bus tour if you have time before you have to head back.

Going there with someone who isn't as motivated as you is pure torture, though, so it's good you're ditching the kids (though a kid who wouldn't like KSC must have something wrong with them, I would've preferred KSC over Disney even when I was a kid). I was there in 2011 with my wife and elderly parents. I missed far more than I actually got to see on that trip.

mikepf
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From: San Jose, California, USA
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posted 12-04-2014 03:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikepf   Click Here to Email mikepf     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If the kids won't enjoy it, best advice is to do as you are, dropping them off somewhere else if that is an option. My then 8 year old daughter was miserable on my one and only visit to KSC. Made it hard for me to enjoy the experience. It was only when we got to the food court that she cheered up. Though we brought snacks, she wouldn't tell us she was hungry. Enjoy your trip!

mjanovec
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From: Midwest, USA
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posted 12-04-2014 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by p51:
I think you need to forget doing any of the extra tours at all and focus only on what's at the visitor center...
I suggest the opposite. If pressed for time, do the Then and Now tour, since that will end up at the Saturn V Center (a place you must visit regardless, since it has the most artifacts). And then see Atlantis either before or after the tour, depending on available time (try to see it before, if possible). If there is additional time beyond that, see the exhibits at the Debus building.

Beyond that, I would minimize my time at the Visitor's Center, unless you have a love for trinkets at gift shops, overpriced hot dogs, and screaming children.

Headshot
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From: Streamwood, IL USA
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posted 12-04-2014 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On the way down we are stopping at Huntsville, Alabama and the kids (teenagers) will get their fill of space at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center... non-attendance is not an option. Forcing them to visit KSC too would be a waste of time, money and cause family problems. My wife is not a huge Disney fan, so going to KSC will be a nice break for her.

mf451
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posted 12-11-2014 07:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mf451   Click Here to Email mf451     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just did the Then and Now tour last weekend and I would recommend it. However, a few things to note:
  • The blockhouse at Pad 5 is currently closed for renovations. The Pad 26 blockhouse is still open and great, but the other isn't currently part of the tour. You still go out onto Pad 5, however.

  • The tour no longer stops at Pad 19. Apparently the road is in too much disrepair to travel on. Nor did we stop at Pad 14. You stop at a Mercury program memorial nearby instead. This was rather disappointing.

  • When you are at the Air Force museum rocket garden (where Pad 26 is), you don't have a ton of time, so move fast. Make sure to high tail it to the Gemini white room at the far end of the field. You can get inside, but not up the stairs. It's still pretty cool, though. Most people on the tour missed this because they didn't realize we had such little time, or what it was. (The guide mentioned it on the way out...)

  • Pad 34 is still great, though the guide kept yelling at us about taking photos towards Pad 37, where ETF-1 had just launched from, which is right next to it. Apparently that is a restricted area.

  • You will also drive by a lot of the historic Cape Canaveral hangars, including the hangar that generated so much controversy about it's demolition.
Anyways, I'm still glad I took the tour, but it seemed a little less comprehensive than it used to be. Have fun!

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