January 14, 2005
Things To Do In Florida Not Involving Anthropomorphic Vermin
During the Saturday I was in Orlando, my sister and I drove the hour over to Cape Canaveral, the first time I'd seen the place since the last Florida trip I took in 1989.
With my camera-phone and its 200-some (low-res) photo storage capacity, I was more interested in quantity than quality. But here are the high points for people who don't want to wait for the thumbnail page to load.
At the front of the visitors complex is a full-scale model of a shuttle and its booster rockets and fuel tank. I'm pretty sure that was there in '89, but I can't remember. (Weird thing I just remembered, and it's really no more than a coincidence: In '89 I would have been there just after they started launching shuttles again after Challenger blew up. This time I was there a little bit before they start launching shuttles again in May following Columbia's reentry breakup.)
In the 15 years since my last visit they've expanded the tour. The bus still takes you to the LC39 observation tower, but now there's a small movie and a set of displays in addition to just the tower itself. And the bus no longer just goes back to the visitor center: There's a second stop.
Now there's a building devoted to the Apollo program and the Saturn V rocket. You can "watch" the launch of Apollo 8 before stepping out into a (very long) room with a full Saturn V hanging well above the floor. At the far end of the rocket is a small program about the landings, mostly Apollo 11.
From there the bus takes you back to the visitor center. They say the tour should take two to two and a half hours. I took closer to three.
There have been additions at the visitor center, too. I don't remember clearly what was there 15 years ago, but I'm pretty sure most of it's (relatively) new. There was a short display on the Robot Scouts (Viking, Voyager, Cassini, etc.) that was geared more toward the kids. It was kind of amusing, though.
I also took a look at the rocket garden before heading into an IMAX show about the ISS in 3-D. That frickin' rocked. It costs more than $30 to get in and take the tour, and that hour-long movie went a long way toward justifying the cost by itself.
After that we went over to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which was new to me. The introductory movie was all right, though a bit drawn-out, and I'd probably skip it next time. The rest of it was cool, and the 4-G simulator more than justified the extra money admission added to the visitor center ticket.
All in all, this was probably the most interesting day I had while I was there. And, like some of the Smithsonian museums, I don't think I'd easily get bored with repeat trips. In fact, I'm tentatively scheduling myself to go back the weekend of May 14 to see Discovery launch. I've never seen a launch in person, and I think the revitalization of the manned space program would be the perfect one to see.