Cape Canaveral, FL – December, 2016 Jim has always had a strong desire to visit the Space Coast. As a child of the 60’s the space race looms large in his earliest memories. Although we vacationed near there several times over the years, we never made the time to stop. Visiting Kennedy Space Center was at the top of our to do list while wintering in Florida.
We were all snuggled into our campsite at Bonita Lakes RV Resort and had decided our 5th wheel wasn’t going anywhere for a while. So Jim had been investigating getting a small rig to make short trips around the state. He found a truck and topper for sale nearby and after thorough investigation decided to buy it.
We have often thought that such a rig would be perfect for a trip to Alaska, or to Mexico. So this is an opportunity to see if we could really live in such a small space for any length of time. In the meantime, it is perfect for tootling around Florida and we’ll decide what to do with it at the end of the season.
As luck would have it there was a rocket launch scheduled for the week following our acquisition and we decided the four hour trip would make the perfect maiden voyage for our new toy. I found Jetty Park Campground about 15 miles from the launch site where we could view the launch from camp. I reserved a full hookup site for $50 per night so we could test all the systems and flush out the tanks.
We arrived in camp just after lunch on the day of the launch. We got set up, finally got everything put away in the camper, and took a walk around. It appeared everyone was getting ready to watch the launch across the inlet. There were campsites directly beside the inlet where people could watch from their front yard but they weren’t electric. Day visitors were able to park their cars right along the water and many were claiming a spot.
The launch was scheduled for between 6:30 and 7:30 so we went back to the rig and had dinner, then grabbed a cocktail and walked back around 6. We found a nice curb to sit on and waited, enjoying the carnival atmosphere of the crowd.
Right on time at the beginning of its launch window we saw a bright glow from behind the hill across the water. Everyone chorused “Here it comes!” or some such variation of this statement.
Then there was a large, silent ball of light rising into the sky.
It seemed forever but was probably around 60 seconds before we heard the roar. It wasn’t earth shattering but it was impressive.
In my final shot of the rocket you can see the smoke trail. The camera magnified all the available light including the helicopters flying around. And I had forgotten my tripod which I keep in the other truck so it’s a little shaky. But it is still my favorite pic.
Then the rocket disappeared into the heavens. The crowd quietly dispersed and we made the short walk home.
On Friday we planned to visit the Kennedy Space Center. We made it out of camp around 9 am. It is really weird taking your home with you on every single outing. We were about half way there when Jim realized he should have grabbed a heavier shirt. Then he laughed at himself when he remembered the closet was still 10 feet behind him.
Not 5 minutes later, I was mentally kicking myself for forgetting my camera until it dawned on me that it was in the cabinet above the couch a few feet to my rear. This will take some getting used to! But I think I’m really going to like it.
By the time we got parked, bought the standard one day tickets for $50 each, and made our way through security it was around 9:45. We decided to take the bus tour first as there was only a small line and they started at 10. So after a 10 minute wait we got on the first bus of the day.
The bus drives you around the property for about an hour. The bus driver gives you a lot of information and there are TVs that deliver even more. You get to see an awful lot from your comfortable bus seat, like the massive assembly building.
And gigantic equipment for moving the rockets to and from the launch pads.
And of course the launch pads themselves are colossal.
I’m running out of synonyms for really, really big so I’ll give that a rest.
After your ride they drop you off at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Here you are treated to a history of the moon-landing era. This takes place in several rooms with large screens culminating in a re-creation of the Apollo 8 launch complete with rocket noise and rumbling seats. These are the actual consoles the ground team used.
Afterward you exit into a massive room with this rocket dominating it.
And you are free to explore the many exhibits at your leisure, like the Apollo 14 capsule.
We found the perfect spot to enjoy the lunch we’d packed.
Whenever you are ready you can catch a a bus for a short ride back to the main visitor complex. We then chose to visit the shuttle building, the home of space shuttle Atlantis. We entered the building and were funneled to a line, thankfully short in our case. After a 5 minute wait we were ushered into one theatre and then another where we were educated on the history of the space shuttle program.
Then we were set free to explore the rest of the building. Atlantis, hanging above it all, is breathtaking.
There were a multitude of displays here, astronaut training simulators, and a memorial to the Challenger and Columbia crews. I really wanted to do the Shuttle Launch Experience, the closest thing to a ride offered at the space center. But I didn’t want it bad enough to wait in line for 45 minutes.
Finally we took a stroll through the Rocket Garden.
There is so much more included in the basic admission including two IMAX films and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. But we were satisfied with our first visit and decided to save them for another time. Our visit was moving, inspirational, and nostalgic. We will definitely be back!