The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral, located an hour from Orlando, is where NASA launched its moon missions, and where rockets still blast off. Even if your trip doesn’t coincide with a launch, you can enjoy a hands-on experience at the Mission Zones.
All visitors get a behind-the-gates look at NASA’s facility during a 40-minute bus tour. Your guide will tell you about the various facilities, such as the vehicle assembly building, where space shuttles are connected to their solid rocket boosters, and launch complex 39, where the Apollo missions took off. At the end of your tour, you’ll be dropped off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center to learn more about moon landing missions and have the chance to stand under the largest rocket ever flown, the Saturn V.
The Astronaut Training Experience will help a new generation prepare for space. Show you have the right stuff to explore Mars’ rough terrain in an exploration simulator, and feel the sensation of a spacewalk while sitting in a microgravity chair. The entire training experience takes five hours, but the simulators can be done individually in about 45 minutes each.
The cost is US$175 (general admission to Kennedy Space Center is US$57 for adults) and is for those 10 years old and older.
After a short video about NASA’s struggle to build the right vessel to take astronauts into orbit, you’ll come face-to-face with the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which was retired in 2011 after nearly 26 years of service. The shuttle is displayed as it would have appeared in orbit, with cargo doors open and the Canadarm extended. If that doesn’t give you an idea of what being in space is like, the training simulators, interactive exhibits covering all 135 shuttle missions and launch experience will.
The Heroes & Legends attraction is home to the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, where you can learn about the inductees, read about their missions and take a virtual picture with the Mercury 7 astronauts, who took part in the first-ever human spaceflight program for the U.S. There is also a 4D multisensory exhibit showcasing early space missions through sound, video and objects, and, every day, a veteran NASA astronaut answers questions from the audience. —B.C.
One more Moon Landing Site to Visit: Lunar Legacy in Flagstaff, Arizona
Located a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, this community is where astronauts—among them Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin—trained for lunar missions. At a site near the city, geologists simulated the cratered surface of the moon using explosives so equipment such as the lunar rovers could be tested. The local United States Geological Survey office is still home to a lunar rover vehicle simulator, which is on display at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center on North Gemini Road. —D.L.