Journey through time at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center with an up-close look at the spacecraft and astronauts that piloted the United States to new frontiers
With all the talk of a real trip into space, guests at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Florida’s Merritt Island are greeted with a climactic sense of arrival upon entering the Heroes and Legends attraction, featuring the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Positioned just inside the en- trance, the $20 million hall unveiled in late 2015 reminds us why we think of astronauts as heroes. Formerly situated in an outdated facility 6 miles north of the space center and its popular visitor center, which attracts more than 1.5 million visitors a year, the Astronaut Hall of Fame now sits at the heart of a cutting-edge multimedia educational experience.
Step inside the Boeing-sponsored exhibit hall’s 360-degree Discovery Bay, and you’re surrounded by an array of images and videos that captures the human element of America’s space program. It’s a compelling production that sparks some thought about how society defines its heroes.
Next is a four-dimensional multisensory movie called Through the Eyes of a Hero that tells stories about four famous astronauts — Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, John Glenn and James Lovell — enhanced by cockpit views of lunar journeys. In one vignette, Armstrong tries to correct a tumbling Gemini 8 capsule during a docking exercise, and we hear, “We have a serious problem here…the capsule is spinning out of control!”
Beyond the screening area is a series of pods, designed to look like space capsules, that contain artifacts, most of them donated by astronauts. Among them are the Mercury flight suit of the second American to fly in space, Gus Grissom, and the World War II bomber jacket of NASA’s first chief of the Astronaut Office, Deke Slayton. A larger display contains the original consoles of the Mercury Mission Control Center.
The final act is the actual Astronaut Hall of Fame, where the walls of the rotunda are lined with plaques and images of 95 astronauts, including the latest honorees. Space Shuttle astronauts Michael Foale (who flew six space missions) and Ellen Ochoa (the first Hispanic woman to go into space) were inducted during ceremonies last May.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is organized into Mission Zones with grouped attractions reflecting specific eras and achievements. By the time this article is in print, two new “training stages” with simulators should be in place for visitors: Mars Exploration and Spacewalk Training.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
855-433-4210 | www.kennedyspacecenter.com
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