Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit Honors 30-Year NASA Program

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex Photo

Now open on Florida’s Space Coast, the $100 million Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit features over 60 interactive experiences and celebrates the people, passion and patriotism behind the shuttle program.

“It’s true that there is more than one space shuttle orbiter out there, but there is nowhere else on Earth like Space Shuttle Atlantis,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in the Miami Herald.

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The 90,000-square-foot Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit is not funded by tax dollars or appropriated funds but by ticket, food and merchandise sales – part of a 10-year master plan developed by Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, operator of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for NASA since 1995.

Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11 and includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, which features the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, the new Angry Birds™ Space Encounter, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX® space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and other interactive exhibits.

“This completely immersive experience is about much more than seeing Atlantis close up,” said Moore. “With hi-fi replicas, simulators and interactive activities touching on all aspects of the shuttle program and its accomplishments, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, it’s the closest guests can get to living and working in space – short of applying to the astronaut corps.”

Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia.

Space Shuttle Home Nears Completion In Florida

Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle Atlantis has a new home in Florida that is nearing completion. As the latest Space Coast attraction, the new $100-million home of the historic spacecraft will launch June 29 at Kennedy Space Center. Far more than a place to store the used orbiter, the new facility will offer visitors unprecedented access to what was once highly classified hardware, uniquely displayed.

This unique experience delivers extraordinary access to Space Shuttle Atlantis, positioned as if it were in space as only astronauts have seen it before. Suspended 30 feet above ground and rotated at slightly less than a 45-degree angle, Atlantis will have her payload bay doors open and robotic arm (Canadarm) extended. Visitors will be able to view the orbiter from below or via a raised surrounding platform.

With 33 missions in space to the credit of Space Shuttle Atlantis, the exterior has been left as-is for visitors to see the wear on its protective external tiles. Over 60 supporting and interactive exhibits plus high-tech simulators tell the story of NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program and the amazing engineering that transformed the way humans explore space. Prominently featured is the shuttle program’s role in building the International Space Station as well as the launch and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope.While the newest attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex, Atlantis is just one feature to be enjoyed by visitors. The Shuttle Launch Experience simulates what it is like to blast off into space. The Rocket Garden features Redstone, Atlas and Titan rockets that first put NASA astronauts in space, alongside Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules. The Astronaut Training Experience brings visitors realistic astronaut training.

Other exhibits trace the history of America’s space program from its beginning and get into the future of space exploration. Far from a relic of another time and a different NASA focus, the Atlantis exhibit promises to complete an experience that fans of space travel may have only dreamed of until now.

Better yet, the Kennedy Space Center website has a rich array of interactive content including a “countdown until the next launch” timer and an Ask An Astronaut feature that invites visitors to pose questions to those who have actually been there and done that.

About the only part of the space shuttle program that visitors won’t see is an actual launch, but we have one of those for you here in this video:




[Image credit - Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex]

Space Travel Update: What NASA Is Up To These Days

space travelWith the Space Shuttle program coming to an end and commercial space flight organizations providing service to the International Space Station, one might wonder what the people at NASA are doing these days. While we’re not sure about other NASA facilities, Kennedy Space Center is keeping busy with a variety of activities.

The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has been the launch site used for every NASA human space travel flight since 1968. KSC is also a major Florida tourist attraction hosting attractions that include the Shuttle Launch Experience, a simulated journey of launching into space and orbiting Earth, as well as the Astronaut Training Experience, Rocket Garden, two IMAX theaters, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and more. Now, KSC is adding yet another attraction, Angry Birds.

The new Angry Birds Space Encounter will be the first comprehensive, interactive Angry Birds attraction in the United States. Designed for people of all ages, the new attraction promises to “brings to life the space adventures of the Angry Birds as they follow their kidnapped eggs into an inter-galactic wormhole, come face to face with Space Pigs and gear up with heroic superpowers,” said KSC in a press release.Set to open at the KSC Visitor Complex on March 22, NASA has a serious reason behind the Angry Birds fun. Collaborating with Angry Birds creator Rovio Entertainment, the idea is to teach players about physics and space exploration, energizing young people regarding future careers in science and technology.

But it’s not all work on the Space Coast of Florida as we see in this video:


[Photo credit - NASA]

Adventure Meets Cruise Ship On Extreme Shore Excursions

adventureIt’s not often that we write about adventure travel and cruises in the same story. It’s more like kayaking and Costa Rica, or cruises and buffets. But some extreme shore excursion offerings by a few cruise lines have raised the bar so high, others may not catch up for a good long while.

Forget the stuffy tour bus and all the challenges of moving 50 or 60 people at a time around an iconic destination; that’s not what these are. We’re talking combat aerobatics, Korean monks and the Holy Grail.

Crystal Cruises
has what they call “experiential cruising” that features far-flung, destination-inspired adventures that are not the fare of a normal shore excursion menu and include hiking, trekking, hot-air ballooning, dog sledding and mountain climbing.

G-Force 4 Combat Aerobatics invites guests to take adrenaline-filled flight in a fighter trainer jet to experience G-Force 4 thrills as an expert pilot teaches combat aerobatics, including a wing over, loop, barrel roll, stall turn and flyby over the ship.

Crew on America’s Cup Winning Yacht- Auckland is home to Team New Zealand, the famed sailing team that won two consecutive America’s Cup challenges. Become a member of the crew for the day, sailing aboard Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup yacht.

Spend the Day as a Korean Monk has guests experiencing a day in the life of a Korean Monk discovering the ancient culture still alive in the country’s many temples. After a tour of a temple’s architecture and history, learn a Korean-style meditation or partake in the tradition of wish writing, all ending with a traditional tea ceremony.

Rescue Endangered Marine Animals in Barcelona
As part of Crystal’s “You Care, We Care” complimentary voluntourism program, visit the Barcelona Rehabilitation Center to participate in a dolphin rescue drill and learn how to manage the floating stretcher, handle the animals and introduce them to the support swimming pool.

Sail an Underground River with Millions of Glow Worms
The Waitomo Caves’ soaring ceilings and low passages have created breathtaking formations and, when one looks up, millions of luminous, blue-green worms decorate the ceiling. Guests float in pitch darkness and absolute silence (so as to not disturb the worms) along an underground river to observe.

VIP at the Monaco Grand Prix- Car lovers experience the fast cars and glamorous events of the Monaco Grand Prix. They can watch the world’s most prestigious automobile race from either the driver/team-prep paddock area, a residence above the famous Casino, or the best seats in the grandstands near the start/finish line.

Rub 100 Buddha Bellies has guests traveling much farther into Asia than the Bangkok port-of-call, including a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang, home to the famed Pak ou Caves. One hundred steps above, voyagers will find hundreds of Buddhas – all illuminated by candles. They say rubbing one Buddha Belly brings good luck, wealth and prosperity. One hundred Buddha’s? All the better.

These over-the-top experiences and other offerings by Crystal Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and Disney Cruise Line are typical of what is happening right now in cruise vacations. Cruise lines are taking advantage of their mobile nature and addressing a traveler-charged desire to see more than the standard tours at destinations around the world.

Disney Cruise Line, masters in storytelling already, take that same ability to craft off-the-ship experiences that travelers are not apt to forget anytime soon. How about taking your children to a puppet show? … at the Villa Borghese in Rome. In Venice, visit textile and marble workshops where artisans create items for the Vatican and Dolce & Gabbana.

“On shore, we just take our storytelling skills and work with the locals to help tell our guests why we are bringing them to Venice or Croatia or Turkey,” Arnaldo Zanonato, Disney’s shore excursions manager said in a great, in-depth Travel Weekly report. “And when it’s appropriate we try to make it more fun, make it hands-on for the kids, make it a learning experience for everybody.”

At the ruins of St. John’s Basilica, the Apostle John is said to be entombed. Exclusive to Disney guests, an “archaeologist” leads them in a competition to find scattered pieces of a sacred symbol.

Travelers who have been to Rome before want something different and more experiential. Disney delivers with a San Clemente Basilica trip where guests can descend to the bottom of the three-tiered complex, which dates back to the first century.

No discussion about extreme shore excursions would be complete without mentioning Azamara Club Cruises, the tiny two-ship boutique cruise line that specializes in destination immersion like no other.

On board Azamara ships – just the right size to be comfortable ocean-going vessels but small enough to get to places big ships can’t touch – its all about the destinations. Rarely repeating itineraries, Azamara offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience the world in an up close and personal way that no stock tour bus can deliver.

Example: A 14-night sailing in April 2013 titled The Spice Route Voyage features three overnights in port and six days at sea allowing passengers to see how various cultures and customs merged along trade routes. The experience is entirely customizable too.

If exploring Singapore’s cuisine and shops is not enough, join a night safari at the zoo. Take a rickshaw ride through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown or in Sri Lanka, explore Buddhist monasteries, cave temples, rainforest preserves and elephant sanctuaries. In India, check the Kerala backwaters near Kochi, the beaches, colonial architecture and spice plantations of Goa, and the boundless energy of Mumbai. This one even has an optional overland tour to Taj Mahal.

Look for other cruise lines to pay more attention to the quality and depth of their off-the-ship options too … but a wing over, loop, barrel roll, stall turn and flyby over the cruise ship? That’s going to be hard to top.

[Photo Credit- Flickr user Defence Images]

Space Shuttle Now Officially A Tourist Attraction

space shuttle

Space Shuttle Atlantis arrived this week at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to begin life as the star of a $100 million exhibit called the Shuttle Launch Experience, expected to open in July 2013. It was the historic final journey of a space shuttle orbiter, signaling the beginning of life after space for the shuttle fleet.

“We think visitors to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be awed and inspired by how they will see and experience Atlantis,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in a statement.

Atlantis completed its historic final journey led by 30 former astronauts who joined the orbiter for the final leg of the trip. Parked in front of the last open wall of the 90,000-square-foot exhibit building, Atlantis will be encapsulated in a protective wrap while that wall is completed.

Once inside the visitor’s complex, Atlantis will be raised 36 feet off the ground then rotated about 43 degrees to mimic spaceflight. On display, its payload bay doors will be open and the robotic arm extended.

Along with Atlantis, the Shuttle Launch Experience will have over 60 interactive, immersive exhibits about the entire shuttle program including a 363-foot-long Apollo/Saturn V rocket and other unique space artifacts.

At the entrance to the Shuttle Launch Experience, guests will walk past a full-size external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters. Strategically positioned, a silhouette of the orbiter is attached to show guests the exact size and placement of the 184-foot-tall space shuttle.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. Admission includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, the new Shuttle Launch Experience, 3-D IMAX space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, featuring historic spacecraft and personal astronaut memorabilia. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.

Right now and through November 12, the space center is offering a sneak peek, up-close and personal look at Atlantis as part of any tour. During scheduled times, a Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex tour guide will take guests through the construction zone and allow guests to take pictures and pose within the secured area.

NASA has spread around the tourism wealth by positioning remaining orbiters around the country. Enterprise is at the Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, Discovery is at
Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Virginia and Endeavour is at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California.




[Photo Credit: NASA photo]