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The Final Frontier: Kennedy Space Center

Located 45 minutes from Orlando is Kennedy Space Center, home of the nationís space program. Manís first steps on the moon were planned and executed here as well as subsequent and future space missions. While Kennedy Space Center is a fully operational facility, the site also welcomes visitors and provides a large variety of exciting and educational tours and programs that will inspire and amaze all ages.

The most important thing to keep in mind when planning a visit to Kennedy Space Center is to plan in advance and make reservations! Besides Disney, Kennedy Space Center is one of Floridaís top attractions. To see everything, plan to arrive early and make a day of it. A number of the activities and programs offered provide only limited seating and fill up early. If youíre planning to time your visit to Kennedy Space Center on the day of a launch, be sure to get launch updates from the site as the day of your visit draws nearer due to the fact that launch details are subject to change.

Even if youíre not planning to view a launch on the day of your visit, there are plenty of opportunities to see and hear current and veteran astronauts in daily briefings and programs planned throughout Kennedy Space Center. You can even have lunch with an astronaut.

There are two admission packages available at Kennedy Space Center. The Standard admission is $30 for adults and $20 for children. With this package you can take the Kennedy Space Center bus tour, check out IMAX movies and have a look at any exhibits or shows that are in progress. The Maximum Access package is an additional $7 for adults and children and well worth the price, considering you get the added benefit of touring the Astronaut Hall of Fame and checking out the interactive space flight simulators. Children 2 and under are FREE for both admission packages.

You will definitely not want to miss the Kennedy Space Center bus tour. This is a great way to start off your visit to KSC. This tour lasts approximately 2 Ĺ hours and will take you to such exciting sites as the Launch Complex where you can get an birdís eye view of the huge launch pads where the shuttles take off, from the Observation Gantry. The tour also gives you an opportunity to visit Apollo/Saturn V Center where you can check out a real, life size Saturn V rocket. The bus tours start at 10 am and run every 15 minutes. If you plan to save the tour until the end of the day, be aware that the last tour departs at 3:15 pm.

While the bus tour is a spectacular way to get an overview of Kennedy Space Center, there are a number of other tours and programs available that will give you an even more in-depth look at the amazing activity that goes on at the Kennedy Space Center. The NASA up close tour allows you to see everything from NASA headquarters to the landing facilities. This tour is also the only way you can get as close as possible to the Space Shuttle Launch pads. Youíll even get to take a peek at the facility where the space shuttles are assembled. In order to take part in the Up Close tour, you must purchase either a Maximum Access or Standard Admission ticket, along with the Up Close tour ticket. The Up Close tour costs $22 for adults and $16 for children.

If youíre interested in the historical journey of space travel, then the Cape Canaveral Tour-Then and Now is definitely worth checking out. See where it all began and how weíve journeyed to our current position in space exploration. This tour includes admission to the Air Force Space and Missile Museum as well as the chance to view such historical sites as the site of the Apollo 1 fire and the launch site for the first human space flight. You must purchase either Maximum Access or Standard Admission ticket, and there is an additional cost of $22 for adults and $16 for children. Both the NASA Up Close and the Cape Canaveral Tour-Then and Now are extremely popular at NASA and sell out early. Itís a wise idea to either make plans to arrive early and purchase tickets on site or make reservations and purchase your tickets online.

Thereís almost always a special program going on at Kennedy which will give you the opportunity for an Astronaut Encounter. These daily briefings are presented by the men and women who have actually flown in space and are a fantastic opportunity to ask questions and snap some pictures, so be sure to bring your camera.

After you have walked in the footsteps of veteran astronauts and received the daily briefing, it will be time to head off for lunch and thereís no better way to make your visit to Kennedy Space Center memorable than to have Lunch with an Astronaut. Seating for this phenomenal program begins at 12:15 daily. The program lasts for about an hour and is $19.99 for adults and $12.99 for kids. Price includes lunch and an autographed souvenir. Seated is limited and you will need a reservation, so make plans early.

After lunch, thereís still plenty more to see and do. Donít forget to make a stop by the Astronaut Memorial, dedicated to the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to further our understanding and exploration of space.

The Mad Mission to Mars allows guest to become astronaut trainees and experience a voyage for themselves through 3D computer animation and special effects. This program is an absolute must for the little kids and big kids alike!

If you can't go into space, thereís nothing more amazing than viewing space on a five story IMAX screen. The IMAX movies shown at Kennedy Space Center include actual footage shot by astronauts during missions. Combined with marvelous surround sounds and 3D effects, youíll feel as though you are right there beside the astronauts as they journey through space and work on the International Space Station.

Free tours of the Rocket Garden are available from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. Imbued with fantastic lighting, the Rocket Garden give visitors the opportunity to see many of the rockets and shuttles that have taken our heroes through space and back home again. Visitors are able to actually tour the inside of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and find out what itís really like in the interior of a rocket ship.

Before you conclude your visit to Kennedy Space Center, make sure you drop by Space Shuttle Plaza, where visitors can receive live briefings and launch and flight activity as well as get an up close look at a life size replica of Explorer, a fuel tank and twin rocket boosters.

There are certainly enough activities and events to keep you busy during your visit to Kennedy Space Center, however; if youíre looking for a one of a kind, once in a lifetime experience look no further than the Astronaut Training Experience. This participatory program gives you the chance to experience the same awesome training astronauts endure in order to prepare for space travel, including the gravity chair and the chance to operate a life-size shuttle. A full day program, the Astronaut Training Experience begins at 9am and ends around 5pm in the afternoon. The cost is $225 per person and is not available for children under the age of 14. Due to the physical interaction involved in the program, it is not recommended for persons with back problems and other health concerns. Advance reservations are required in order to participate.

Kennedy Space Center makes the perfect place for individuals and groups of all sizes and ages to visit, however; visitors should be aware that while this site is open to and welcomes visitors it remains a fully operational government facility. As such, the administrators and staff at KSC are extremely careful regarding safety precautions. Before you depart for your visit, make sure you bring a valid picture ID for all adults and if possible, for children as well. Be aware that you will not be allowed to bring sharp or pointed objects onto the KSC site; including scissors and nail files. Coolers are also not allowed and if a launch is planned, backpacks will also not be allowed onto the premises. Vehicles, purses and bags are subject to being searched. Kennedy Space Center is open every day (9AM -7PM) except Christmas and on days when certain launches are scheduled to take place.

For more information about the programs and activities offered at Kennedy Space Center, check out www.kennedyspacecenter.com This is the official site for Kennedy Space Center. Here you can download a map for your visit, order tickets online and obtain a list of upcoming events.

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