Tag Archives: neil armstrong

Top 5 in Space (Part II)

When you first arrive at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, one of the most dominant aspects is the Rocket Garden. Here, real rockets tower into the sky, pointing upward as if a constant reminder of the ultimate goal: SPACE.

The massive rockets allow you to see just how large an undertaking the space program was when the US first set its collective mind on reaching the stars. Enjoy this video for a glimpse of the Rocket Garden and then the Early Space Exploration Center.

Next we got an opportunity to eat lunch with an astronaut. I absolutely loved this! First of all, the food was much better than my family would get at home. [Note: I don’t cook.]

Next, the audience was kept small in order to give an intimate feeling as Astronaut Sam Gemar made his rounds, patiently answering questions, shaking hands, and kissing babies. [Okay, he probably didn’t kiss anybody.] 

We shared our table with a family from South Africa who brought their three young boys to KSC.  Gemar spent quite a bit of time with us, sharing his incredible knowledge. Fast fact: 1 in 15 astronauts are killed in the line of duty. So, yeah, they deserve our utmost respect!

Gemar then gave a brief general Q&A session, where the favorite question was whether there are aliens in space.  He explained that he hoped there were, as space is a pretty large place, but as of now we had no aliens on Earth. To which a boy of about four years old loudly exclaimed, “Yes, there are aliens on Earth!” [Note: Could have won $10,000 if I had caught that on video…too funny!]

After lunch, we were greeted by Lesley Llerandi who graciously drove us around the property to see some exciting things up close:

  • The Vehicle Assembly Building–VAB, which is absolutely mammoth!
  • The “crawlerway”…tracks still visible from the last time the Shuttle was brought out
  • Launch Pad #39B, close-up drive by and then from a special viewing place by the beach
  • We also saw Launch Control

Some of these close-up stops are available to the public for a slightly elevated tour price; it’s well worth it!

We ended at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. This was my husband’s favorite stop. It gives you a great review of the historical importance of the early space program, which was nice for my son and nephew to hear. Then you get to see the actual launch control of the first missions before moving on to see a real Saturn V rocket…larger than a football field in length! Whew!

All in all, the Top 5 was so honored to have been shown around Kennedy Space Center. Not only do we recommend it as a “must-do” stop for tourists, but for any locals, if you are like me and have never been before, be sure to do yourself the favor by visiting this Central Florida gem. And, if you have already been , I strongly recommend going to see what’s new.

It’s hard to keep in mind in our magical city, where so much make believe is fantastically brought to life, that Kennedy Space Center is the real deal. It’s our history, our present, and our future!

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Filed under Shuttle, Space, Tourist, Uniquely Florida

Elevator Games?

Growing up in Central Florida, one of my earliest aspirations was to be an astronaut. I believe moonwatching, supporting NASA, and reaching for the stars is ingrained in any native Floridian. My mother was pregnant with me when Neil Armstrong first set foot upon the Moon. Just twelve years later, I vividly remember being home sick from school and lying in bed watching both the opening of Epcot as well as the launch of the first space shuttle mission. Later, images of Columbia exploding 72 seconds into flight still reign in my mind, and I remember my high school teachers trying to explain to students what had happened.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was a sophomore sitting in Astronomy class at the University of Florida–and I realized how much math was involved with being an astronaut–that I was forced to give up that dream. 

Now, as NASA struggles with undetermined funding and uncertainty, everyone seems to have a strong opinion either for space exploration or against it. This is why the upcoming Space Elevator Games fascinate me so. The idea of reaching space in a new way (that doesn’t involve me having to conquer ridiculous amounts of math) seems intriguing. Here’s a short trailer for the games.


Yes, this idea seems a bit “out there” and farfetched, but so did rocketry fifty years ago. Ever see the movie October Sky? Well, one of those rocket boys lives right here in Central Florida: Dr. Robert Likens. He is living proof that dreams, however lofty, can come true. So, regardless of whether this idea will actually come to fruition, I loudly applaud the inventive thinking and never-ending dream of reaching for the stars…somehow it seems to epitomize not only the American spirit, but the Central Floridan one as well.

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Filed under Out of Orlando, Shuttle, Uniquely Florida

40th Anniversary

It seems like I keep writing about space, space, space…well, perhaps that is appropriate with all that has been happening in Central Florida lately–five attempts before the Endeavor launched successfully and now the fortieth anniversary of the Moon Landing. 

I must be honest…my mother was pregnant with me when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the Moon, so I have never known anything but the space age. I was also home sick from Glenridge Junior High, and so I got to watch live both the first Space Shuttle flight as well as the opening  of Epcot.  (I watched as fellow student Jodi Crane, who was there with his family as the first official visitors to Epcot, smiled and told reporters, “I hope my teachers aren’t watching!”)

My son, too, has grown up with humans regularly going into space. Although there have been two terrible tragedies, I would not hesitate to jump at the chance to go into space myself. (If only I was a billionaire!) I do wish I had been alive to witness the man’s first footsteps on the moon; hopefully I will be alive to see man’s first steps on Mars. After all, my grandmother watched Central Florida change from a place where she took a horse and wagon to New Smyrna Beach to a place that launched high tech rockets into orbit, so there is hope yet!

Enjoy this video recap of the Moon Landing…provided by NASA.

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Filed under History, Shuttle

Own a piece of Central Florida history…

Check from Neil Armstrong

Check from Neil Armstrong

With the 40th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Shot, Central Florida will soon be “buzzing” with space memorabilia.  With that in mind, you can own a piece of that history by bidding on this check, signed by Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

He signed the check shortly before take off, as a repayment of a loan. That check was never cashed and has made it way 40 years to the present, where it is being auctioned off.

Armstrong’s signature is particular desirable, as he stopped giving autographs back in 1994 when he became weary of profiteers. Wannabe owners can check out the auction here.

Fingers are crossed for clear weather Wednesday at 6:03 pm.  There is a 60% chance of favorable weather. For those of you who make the trip to see the launch, patience is imperative as safety is the #1 priority. Those of us who lived here in Central Florida when the Challenger disaster happened, know just how important patience is!

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