Are you fascinated with outer space? Have you always wanted to experience what it’s like to be an astronaut? Kennedy Space Center, which is located about an hour east of Orlando on Florida’s space coast, offers a wealth of opportunities to learn about the country’s space program and the people who were part of it. It even provides hands-on experiences so you can feel what it’s like to fly in space.
KSC’s facility is split into Mission Zones so visitors can explore the history of the space program through each era, from the beginning until now. We break it down below to help you plan your day.
Heroes & Legends
Here, you will learn the stories of NASA’s space pioneers. KSC suggests allotting two hours for this area, which features the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Rocket Garden and Astronaut Encounter, which provides the opportunity to meet an astronaut during a live presentation.
Behind the Gates
Several tours in this mission zone take you behind the scenes for a fascinating look at NASA’s spaceflight operations. You should allow one to three hours for this zone, depending on the tour you choose, and it is not recommended that you take multiple tours in one day. KSC suggests choosing the one that best aligns with your interests. The Kennedy Space Center Bus tour is included with daily admission and offers exclusive access to historic launch sites and working spaceflight facilities. All other Special Interest Tours require an additional ticket to participate. These special tours include Kennedy Space Center Launch Control Center Tour (tour the launch operations area and see the modifications happening at historic Launch Complex 39), Cape Canaveral Early Space Tour (tour Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and visit the historic site where America’s space program was born), Launch Director Tour (experience NASA’s Launch Control Center with Launch Director Mike Leinbach), and Fly with an Astronaut (experience a guided tour of KSC, eat lunch and launch into space aboard the Shuttle Launch Experience with an astronaut).
Race to the Moon
This zone gives you an up-close look at the moments and monuments that helped America win the race to the moon. Stand under Saturn V, the largest rocket ever flown, at the Apollo/Saturn V Center; watch history unfold with the launch of Apollo 8 in the Firing Room; explore the Apollo moon landing era with an exhibit featuring the machines that made it possible; relive the moments leading up to the first words ever spoken from the surface of the moon at the Lunar Theater; and view an actual Apollo spacecraft and legendary artifacts, including Alan Shepard’s spacesuit complete with moon dust, in an immersive display.
Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other
It is suggested that you allow two and a half hours for this zone because there is so much to see and do. Here, you can get an up-close view of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and learn about the successes, setbacks and spinoffs of the Hubble Space Telescope in the Hubble Space Telescope Theater. Interactive experiences include training like an astronaut in the high-tech Astronaut Training Simulators, exploring modules and microgravity of the International Space Station inside Space Shuttle Atlantis, discovering the sights, sounds and sensations of blasting off into space in the Shuttle Launch Experience. This zone also includes a permanent memorial honoring the astronauts who lost their lives during space shuttle missions STS-51L Challenger and STS-107 Columbia.
NASA Now & Next
Allow two and a half hours to see what’s next for the International Space Station and upcoming missions to explore deep space. This zone will give you the opportunity to discover NASA’s plans to explore deep space and test your skills as a recruit in Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted, meet the new Mars rover concept vehicle, look through the eyes of NASA’s space telescopes in 3D, experience space in 3D during two movie experiences at the IMAX Theater (included with daily admission), and receive a Mission Status Briefing to learn about what’s happening with current NASA missions, operations at KSC and launch activity at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at the Astronaut Encounter Theater.
You can easily spend an entire day exploring “The Greatest Space Adventure on Earth.” The visitor complex opens at 9 a.m. daily and the closing time varies by season. Fuel up throughout the day with the facility’s four restaurants and three snack stands, which include vegetarian, gluten-free and healthy options. Reservations are recommended for the Lunch with an Astronaut experience. And don’t forget to pick up a souvenir at the space shop before you head home.