KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., May 23, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- NASA is offering visitors rare access to several key areas of Kennedy Space Center during its 50th anniversary year to enhance a popular destination that already features an array of authentic attractions showcasing the space program and opportunities for up-close viewing of ongoing rocket launches.
A special Kennedy Space Center Up-Close Tour has been extended through the end of 2012 to provide visitors a look inside the 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where the Apollo rockets and space shuttles were assembled. One of the largest buildings in the world, the VAB had been off limits to visitors for more than 30 years until the tour was added in November.
The space agency is also working with Delaware North Companies, which operates Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, on final details of new tours featuring operational areas that visitors have also rarely had the opportunity to see. Announcements regarding the new tours are expected in the coming weeks.
Ongoing Rocket Launches
The visitor complex remains one of the best vantage points to see rocket launches taking place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. More than 10 launches have been scheduled for 2012 to carry NASA science missions and government satellites, as well as to test commercial space programs. An Atlas V rocket carrying a satellite was launched May 4, and next is a demonstration launch of a Falcon 9 rocket by SpaceX, the first mission by a commercial company to travel to and dock with the International Space Station.
"There's an opportunity to see fascinating aspects of the space program that few people have seen, and a chance your visit can coincide with a rocket launch," said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
"We want people to know that a visit to Kennedy Space Center remains a visit to an operating facility where a lot of exciting things are happening. It's a world-class destination that offers a truly authentic and memorable visitor experience, and this year is an ideal time for Florida residents and vacationers to visit," Moore said.
50th Anniversary of Kennedy Space Center
The 50th anniversary year features several events, including a celebration July 1 to mark the anniversary of the space center being officially acknowledged as an operating spaceflight center under the name Launch Operations Center. It was later changed to John F. Kennedy Space Center in honor of the president and his vision of Americans landing on the moon.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is offering guests two special offers that can save up to 30 percent on admission, food and merchandise, as well as secure access to view rocket launches. Details of Kennedy Space Center's 50th Gold Admission Package and a $50 Annual Pass are available at http://kennedyspacecenter.com/annual-pass-offer.aspx.
New Home for Space Shuttle Atlantis
Events are also planned to mark milestones in the creation of the future home of the space shuttle Atlantis, expected to open in July 2013. Ground was broken in January on the exhibit, and this fall Atlantis will "roll over" from its processing facility inside the Kennedy Space Center to the visitor complex for permanent display. The 65,000-square-foot Atlantis exhibit will provide guests a unique vantage point to view Atlantis up close, while telling the story of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program through a number of hands-on, interactive and immersive mediums.
Humankind's Greatest Adventure
From the earliest days of America's storied space program, Kennedy Space Center has captured the world's attention and fed its imagination as the epicenter of mankind's greatest adventure. Kennedy Space Center's remarkable collection of rockets, launch pads, NASA aerospace technology components and launch viewing opportunities offer an authenticity and behind-the-scenes access unlike any other Central Florida destination. A must-see for every Florida visitor, the visitor complex offers numerous activities and interactive programs, including meeting real astronauts, that will leave visitors with a new-found understanding of the U.S. space program.
For more information about the Kennedy Space Center Up-Close Tour and other tours, visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com. Highlights include:
- The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), one of the largest buildings in the world, is where Apollo rockets and space shuttles were assembled.
- Apollo/Saturn V Center
A fully restored, 363-foot Saturn V moon rocket serves as the centerpiece, and visitors can relive the historic launch of Apollo 8 in the Firing Room Theater and catch the harrowing final moments before man landed on the moon in the Lunar Theater. All tours stop here, as well as the LC-39 Observation Gantry, which offers panoramic views of launch pads.
- Shuttle Launch Experience is an incredible journey of vertically launching into space and orbiting Earth aboard the space shuttle. Guest "crew members" strap in for this launch replication, which immerses visitors in the sights, sounds and feelings of a space shuttle launch, designed under the guidance of NASA and veteran space shuttle astronauts.
- IMAX® Theaters
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is home to not one, but two five-and-a-half-story-tall IMAX screens – the only back-to-back 3D IMAX theaters in the world. Now playing are two films featuring ongoing NASA missions: Space Station 3D and Hubble 3D.
Other Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex attractions and activities include the Astronaut Training Experience ® (ATX®), Rocket Garden, Astronaut Encounter, Lunch With an Astronaut, U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted, and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
About Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. Closing times vary by season. Admission includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX® space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and all exhibits. Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world's largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia, open from noon until 6:00 p.m. daily. Parking, wheelchairs, strollers and pet kennels are free of charge. Admission is $45 + tax for adults and $35 + tax for children ages 3-11. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Commander's Club Annual Pass is $58 + tax for adults and $48 + tax for children ages 3-11. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is operated by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts at KSC Inc., a division of Delaware North Companies, one of the world's leading hospitality and food service providers. For more information, visit www.DelawareNorth.com.
PHOTO CAPTION: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is offering rare behind-the-scenes tours for its 50th anniversary year, including one taking visitors inside the massive, 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Apollo rockets and space shuttles were assembled. For more information on tours of Kennedy Space Center, visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.
SOURCE Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex