Revamp of new Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex begins
In preparation for construction of a new, high-tech “Heroes and Legends” Next Generation attraction, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida, will close for approximately a year on November 2.
Using digital technology and special effects, including holograms, the new Heroes and Legends will enable visitors to vicariously experience early space missions and virtually interact with almost 100 astronauts who have been inducted into the center’s U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Groundbreaking for the new, upgraded attraction, scheduled to open in late 2016, took place in May of this year.
The Early Space Exploration building, which will be integrated into the new attraction, closed at the end of September.
Like its predecessor, the new Visitor Complex will feature the stories of America’s first astronauts, the early pioneers of space travel.
However, in its omnidirectional 3-D theater, attendees will not just learn about the experiences of these astronauts second hand but also have the opportunity to join them in simulations of their early missions.
Specially designed to give visitors the experience of floating in space, the theater will surround them with gorgeous space images while holograms of famous astronauts – including John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, and others – invite them on journeys into the final frontier.
Upon entering the new facility, patrons will visit the Heroes and Legends section, located near the Rocket Garden, then go on to explore a variety of attractions including the 3-D film “Journey to Space”, an interactive “Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted”, “Science on a Sphere”, and “Fly with an Astronaut”.
“Bringing the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and its educational programs to the visitor complex will allow a larger audience to explore the amazing achievements of the astronaut heroes who are members of the Hall of Fame,” explained Kennedy Space Center visitor complex chief operating officer Therrin Protze.
“The mission of the visitor complex is to inspire minds of all ages through memorable space experiences, and the new Heroes and Legends, featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, will immerse our guests in some of the most inspirational and remarkable space experiences in the world,” Protze said.
In the 3-D “Journey to Space” film, visitors will learn about future NASA plans, such as capturing asteroids and sending humans to Mars. Narrated by actor Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: TNG fame, the film will feature interviews with the commander of the last space shuttle mission, Chris Ferguson, and with newly-selected astronaut Serena Aunon.
The film will discuss NASA’s past accomplishments and current activities as well as its future plans.
“Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted” will provide hands-on simulation and interactive activities to show visitors the challenges the first humans on Mars will experience. A live show, “Explorers Wanted”, will present real-time updates on spacecraft now in development that may someday visit the Red Planet, such as the Orion capsule and the Space Launch System.
Also included will be displays of the various Mars rovers and of a full-sized Orion heat shield.
Through the “Science on a Sphere” attraction, visitors will be given the chance to look down on an illuminated Earth globe the way astronauts do from space. Computers and video projectors will transform the six-foot diameter sphere into a simulated version of our living planet, showing its atmosphere, environmental processes, and even the effects of climate change.
The sphere, created by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), can also be transformed into the Moon, Mars, or other planets for detailed viewing up close.
“Fly with an Astronaut” is a special half-day program in which patrons can take part in a simulated flight of the Shuttle Launch Experience alongside a NASA astronaut. This attraction includes a tour of the Kennedy Space Center, a ride past the Vehicle Assembly Building, a visit to the LC-39 Observation Gantry, and a guided tour of the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
Participation in “Fly with an Astronaut” must be booked in advance on dates the astronauts are available. The cost is $199 for adults, $174 for children 3–11, and includes a private lunch near Launch Complex 39.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers live attendance at actual rocket launches, with the next two being the October 30 United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the 11th Global Positioning Satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 12:07 PM, and the December 3 United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the second Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) at 6 p.m.
Regular admission excluding the “Fly with an Astronaut” feature costs $50 plus tax for adults and $40 plus tax for children ages 3-11. Multi-day admission options are available at $75 plus tax for adults and $60 plus tax for children 3–11 years old.
More information about the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is available at http://www.KennedySpaceCenter.com
Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine’s guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.