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Old 1 Jul 16, 08:57 PM  
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The "Years in the Making" Trip - Day 6 - Kennedy Space Center

Iím pretty sure that no one has been waiting for this update with baited breathÖ but that would be a good thing since it has taken me soon long to get it written. Sorry! I must admit that my note taking for this day wasÖ wellÖ. non-existent. Iím not sure why I didnít get around to noting anything at all beyond ďKSCĒ for the day, but hey ho. Iím relying on memory and photos to construct the day (to be fair, it wasnít the greatest photo day either!) and must apologise for gaping gaps in the information because much as I loved KSC, the details of spacey stuff are Ianís department. If we waited for him to fill in the bits I canít remember, youíd still be waiting for this instalment next year! But onwardsÖ. for the sky calls to us!

Today was Kennedy Space Center Day. There is no way we were going all the way to Florida and not including a Space Center visit with my space obsessed husband. Much as he was ridiculously excited about the trip as a whole, Kennedy was always going to be a stand out feature for him.

Simon was checking out of AoA and in to Caribbean Beach today, but as his new room was unlikely to be ready so early, and rather than trust his luggage to bell services or leave it in the car, he drove over to OKW and left his bags in our room. And his car in the car park too. (Look at us, being rebellious again! Parking your car in a resort that isnít your own! Yeah, yeah, OKW is hardly a ďpopularĒ parking spot, and his car was only occupying as much space as ours would have had we, say, taken the bus to the MK. But I feel Iíve established a rebellious streak now, and I have to live up to it. Just wait until you hear what we did later in the trip! )

We all set off together in our 7 seater for the coast. We opted to use the automatic enrolment in the SunPass/ePass with our Alamo car, as there were a number of tolls to go through and the $3.95 daily charge seemed worthwhile to avoid scrabbling for all that change, as well as keep slowing down to pay. (For clarification, the daily charge is only on any day that you actually use cashless tolls. It doesnít charge you that every day after you have used it once, which someone recently told me they believed.There is a cap of around $20 in the rental period too. We paid cash for tolls on other days when it was only one or two we were going through, but using the cashless system worked really well on this day.)

Ian was in the front, doing the navigating, but even from the middle row I could feel his excitement rising, especially when we caught our first glimpse of the VAB from miles out.

We made really good time, pulling in to the car park - and paying a charge for the first time - about 10 minutes ahead of opening, parking in the second row.

They do have a little opening ceremony thing they do, but I think I missed it because I was in the restroom or chasing Thomas or something - sorry, lack of notes showing there already! I think the countdown timer counts down to zero too - the countdown timer at the front is the original one which was only replaced fairly recently and then archived at the front of the park. It did display some rather odd sequences of numbers whilst we were watching though, so perhaps as well it has been replaced. I can just imagine a launch counting down 10Ö.9Ö.8Öno wait a minuteÖ11Ö.16Ö.3Ö. you get the picture!

We headed through a very quiet park. Weíd sort of thought that we would do the bus tour early, but it turns out they donít start until an hour or two after opening, so we headed straight for Atlantis instead.

The set up in here is pretty amazing. Ian commented that all the build up (there are two short films in two separate spaces first) was annoying as he just wanted to get in there, but actually if you knew nothing about the Space Shuttle program it would be a good introduction. And there was something about the screen going back and Atlantis just being there that almost choked me up. Itís one of those things that words are not great at. And the pictures cannot do it justice either. It is simply amazing - this thing has actually been in space!

The exhibits here are set up well as well. Thomas obviously had no clue about the significance of what he was looking at, but itís fair to say that it still made a massive impression on him. Heís pretty familiar with space stuff, thanks to Ian, and so he knew at once that it was a shuttle. Much more of the information is lost on him at the moment, but I know that heíll remember seeing it for a long time, and as the rest of the detail of the shuttle program becomes familiar to him I know that heíll always remember having seen it.

There is also plenty for kids to actually do and look at as well. Thomas spent ages playing with a mock up of the shuttle controls - there were literally hundreds of switches here for him to flip up and down to his heartís content. Ian meanwhile took literally hundreds of incredibly geeky pictures of components and wires and a whole bunch of stuff that neither means anything to me nor is very aesthetically pleasing. Rooting these endless pictures out may be partly responsible for the delay in getting this post written. But he was a very happy boy so Iím not actually complaining!

Thomas also had a little play in a miniature ISS play station. The exhibition then continues downstairs - which you can get to down a walkway or by taking a slide which replicates the glide path of a shuttle coming in to land. Thomas took one look and declared he wasnít sliding down it. To be fair, I canít blame him. It was pretty long, high and steep. But Ian and I werenít deterred, and down we slid! (For the record, it was fun!)

Downstairs there were lots of hands on simulators. I had a go and was successful at manoeuvring the shuttle around the assembly building (or something like that - no notes, remember!) but the simulators where you had to dock to the ISS were much, much harder! Ian and my brother headed off to try out the space launch simulator here. I decided to pass as simulator rides can often make me feel travel sick, and I was a bit worried it might be like the more intense Mission Space. (Apparently it wasnít very intense at all, but never mind.)

Just before they came back, Thomas suddenly looked at me and said ďI want to go down the slide. I want to go down with DaddyĒ. So the second Ian came out I packed him and Thomas back off to the top of the slide as quickly as possible before he changed his mind. He was a little bit hesitant (I think he thought he would come down on Ianís lap - which isnít allowed) but in the end he did it, with massive smiles and giggles at the bottom. Hurrah!

We made a stop in the obligatory gift shop at the exit, and picked up a shuttle play set for Thomas. Heís a pretty good kid to take in to shops as he very, very rarely pesters for anything, and the fact that he didnít ask for anything at all in here made me want to spoil him even more. As it turned out, he was completely oblivious that what weíd bought was actually for him until much later on.

We decided to get an early lunch before heading on to the bus tour, so we made a stop in the Orbit Cafe. The food here was pretty bog standard fast food. The ordering kiosks were a bit chaotic and I seem to remember there being some other issue with getting the food too, but it all worked out ok.

We then headed over to get on the bus tour. There is an obligatory photo opportunity and we were asked to do a cringeworthy ďput your hands over your ears as if a rocket has just launchedĒ one. Yeah. We looked a bit silly, so we didnít buy them.

The bus tour takes you out past the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and Launch Control Center and for a look at the launch pads and crawler vehicles. Itís absolutely true that you cannot convey the size of the VAB in either words of pictures. When people tell you tat the Stars and Stripes on the side are the height of a 17 story building, it still doesnít help it to sink in just how truly massive this building is. The doors are just ridiculous! The crawlers, which transport space craft to the launch pads are also something to behold. They are the size of a massive building in themselves and the fact that they can move - albeit only at about one mile per hour - is amazing.

The launch pads are currently in transition. One is being converted for use with the SLS. More and more is also being opened up to commercial operations - chiefly Space-X (who did have a launch during our stay, but the schedule was changed and it took place in the wee small hours. If our own schedule had not been so packed Ian would have been there. But hey ho.)

The photos really donít do any of this justice, especially as the bus windows were so, so dirty! Thomas, bless him, did nod off towards the end of the tour. I think six full on days was starting to take its toll on him. But even he was amazed by the size of the buildings and the crawlers.

We got to the Apollo/Saturn V centre. Thomas had only just nodded off, so I carried him off the bus fast asleep. Props to al the people who grabbed the only seats whilst waiting for the doors to open and left me carrying and obviously sleeping and heavy child. Ho hum.

He didnít stay asleep for long anyway, waking up as soon as we went in. He was actually fascinated with mock up of the Apollo launch from the control room, although somewhat perturbed by the windows shaking.

The Saturn V exhibit was pretty breathtaking too. A quick check through the old photos proved that it used to be outside. Iím not sure if they moved it all that far, or if this building was built roughly at the site where it used to be located. Probably as well that itís protected from the elements now though.

Thomas was interested in the various space suits they had on display, enjoyed touching some moon rock and had Daddy take him on a full tour explaining how a rocket works. Ian was just in some kind of seventh heaven!

Another obligatory gift shop stop (fridge magnets purchased) and we went to get on the bus back. We were directed to board a bus which looked pretty full and as we got on it was apparent that there werenít going to be enough seats for us to sit down. The driver kept shouting at us to move to the back and we had to point out a couple of times that there was no where to actually sit for four out of the six of us. We offered to get off and get on the bus behind which was already loading, but the driver immediately told us not to. She started having a little quiet rant about them overloading her as she struggled to pull the section of seats out that is folded back to make room for a wheelchair to be secured. It seemed to take forever, with all the other passengers seeming to glower at us, despite the fact that it clearly wasnít our fault. As we travelled back to the main visitor complex we noticed a sign that said those seats were only meant to be folded away when there was a wheelchair on board - which explained why the driver did not want us to get off the bus as that would reveal that she did not have the seats set up as they were supposed to be!

On arrival back at the main visitor complex we stopped off to get some ďSpace DotsĒ (Dippin' Dots.) We tried a few of the the flavours between us - I think I had banana split. My favourite though were the fruity ones as they seemed much more refreshing and the flavour was stronger. The others sort of tasted a bit muted, if you get what I mean. Iím not totally convinced by them, although this was the only time we tried them, so maybe I need to try them again to give a full verdict. The texture seemed a bit odd!

Brain freeze!

We then stopped by the kids playground area. My mum and I stayed to watch Thomas whilst the others went for a wander around the rocket garden which was in full sun at that time.

The kids play area was pretty good - certainly got Thomasís seal of approval - but unfortunately whilst sitting here I got bitten on the leg by a horsefly! It was probably a comedy moment as I felt something, looked down and saw this enormous brown fly thing on me so I jumped up and started shaking my leg like a mad lady and probably shrieking too if Iím honest! It took a while to come up, but it was a bit of a beast and only faded fully by the end of the holiday, two weeks later.

With that we cajoled Thomas out and headed to join the others in the rocket garden where we had a good explore. Thomas particularly enjoyed running up and down the gantry they have displayed here, and climbing in to the mocked up re-entry capsules.

We also had some fun trying to recreate photos from our first visit (33 years ago) but although the same rockets are still there, you can no longer get right underneath them, as nosy three year old me did!


Final stop of the day was yet another shopping stop! Ian had mentioned after we left the shop at the Saturn V centre about wanting a Nasa hoodie but them being expensive. Ianís idea of expensive is often worlds apart from mine. He rarely spends much money on himself -especially on clothes - and was actually in desperate need of a decent new hoodie. So $45 or thereabouts for one that he really liked was not expensive to me at all. I finally commenced him to buy one and then it was time to head home.

Overall it was a really good day for a change of pace. Although there was still quite a bit of walking, it was much more leisurely than a typical park day. There is also quite a bit we didn't do, including two iMax films (would not have been great for Thomas!) which would have provided more relaxed time too. We classed this as a bit of a rest day, and definitely recommend it as a day to do.

The lack of notes really catches up with me here, as I actually have no idea what we did when we got back to Orlando. Iím pretty sure we just had a quiet evening at OKW, eating snacks and food from our Publix shop (and probably a beer or two too). If weíd done anything much more, Iíd probably remember, or have photos. We had an early start the next day as we were off to Universal, so Iím pretty sure we had an early-ish night, ready to get back to the route march tomorrow!
The "Years in the Making" Trip Report - Apr/May 2016 - unfinished, but hopefully soon!
Our Japan Adventures in the Have Child, Will Still Travel... to Japan! Trip Report - In Progress!
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Old 2 Jul 16, 12:06 AM  
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Well, I've been looking forward to your next day!

This looks like a great day out. We've never been and really should make the effort really. If only for the slide! Looks so much fun!
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Old 2 Jul 16, 12:49 AM  
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Erm, I'm not going to lie... I have been eagerly awaiting your next instalment!

What a great day, I love KSC! I felt the same when writing about our day there though, I hadn't made many notes and I couldn't remember what anything was called or what it did! I had to google constantly along the way!

I love the Atlantis exhibition, both times when that screen goes down and it's the big reveal I totally well up! So emotive and such a privilege to see such an amazing piece of space history in the flesh. And I'm not even a space fan... I can't even begin to imagine how Ian must have felt about it all!

Amazing photos once again, the ones of Thomas asleep are beyond cute! Oh and what a brave little man going down that slide... you wouldn't get me on it that's for sure!

Thanks you so much for sharing, can't wait to read all about your Universal day!
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Old 2 Jul 16, 12:58 AM  
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Another great read.
Your photos of KSC from the past look much like the ones I have from 1983!
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Old 2 Jul 16, 09:07 AM  
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Great photos! DH desperate to go next year but I wasn't too fussed tbh but you've changed my mind. And yes I did wonder where you'd gone! Looking forward to next installment. 😉
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Old 2 Jul 16, 10:25 PM  
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Sounds like a great day even without notes and certainly plenty of play areas for Thomas to enjoy. I must confess that last time we were there with the kids my DH took my DS's to KSC and I went shopping with my DD as I am not a fan but the boys loved it

Edited at 10:26 PM.
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Old 3 Jul 16, 02:55 PM  
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I think you did really well considering you didn't have many notes! You've made me all excited to visit here it looks like you had a great day. Well done Thomas for going down the slide, I'm not sure I'll be that brave. Open slides like that always make me think I'm going to bounce right off the side 😳
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Old 3 Jul 16, 05:12 PM  
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Another great TR. Our son will be 3 when we go and will love the slide (if I'm brave enough to let him on 😄 I certainly won't be trying it)
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Old 20 Sep 16, 06:07 PM  
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Ooh I'd missed this! I've never had the slightest bit of interest in visiting here, but it does actually look really cool!

Lovely photo of Thomas looking out of the window on the bus
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