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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Kennedy Space Center and the NEW Shuttle Launch Experience

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kennedy Space Center and the NEW Shuttle Launch Experience

My first thought sitting in the launch simulator was, "gee, if I had a set of dentures, they would have bounced out of my mouth by now and skedaddled on across the floor"...the vibrations were that intense! This past Saturday, the kids and I decided to take advantage of the Boy Scout Overnight Experience at the Kennedy Space Center. Our trip was to include some "after hours" fun and games, as well as "the sleepover of all sleepovers" by sleeping under the Saturn 5 rocket that peacefully rests in its own hangar. Now, you know with two boys, we just couldn't pass that up!

Our Cub Scout Pack started planning months ahead by calling the Kennedy Space Center and reserving 40 spots for our pack. We had to go ahead and put down a $100 deposit and fill out some security forms for all the adults...and then wait....very patiently.

We arrived on Saturday, after a nice leisurely drive. We then met up with our guide. He was a likeable sort of fellow, who had an answer for everything (in a good way) and ended up doing a pretty good job of giving us our own personal tour over the next two days. We loaded all of our gear into a bus....bring only what you can carry.....and got a nice tour of some of the exhibits to include the Rocket Garden, the Astronaut Memorial and the mock up of the Space Shuttle Explorer. We then proceeded to the "Astronaut Encounter" theatre and met up with Astronaut Charlie Walker. He did an excellent job of explaining what the training entails, and did a Q&A session after his talk. Of course, he had a ready-made detailed explanation as one of the boys had to ask about going to the bathroom in space. I bet that must be the most frequently asked question!

We were then hustled to the Orbit Restaurant, cafeteria-style dining, and settled down with a personal pan pizza, soda and an apple. Our total group, which consisted of three different Cub Scout packs topped at almost 200, so be prepared for being part of a crowd if you choose to do this overnighter. By now, we were the only ones running around the Kennedy Space Center, as civilians that is, and even with such a large group, you could hear our footfalls echoing on the pavement. I think the excitement was actually causing the kids to be dumbfounded in awe!

It was then off to the IMAX theatre to see "Magnificent Desolation" which is a fantastic piece, narrated by Tom Hanks and other actors. It details our missions to the moon and does a stunning job of showing the astronauts doing what they do best. After being wowed with the show, we were bused to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, stowed our gear again, and moved into the Firing Room Presentation. You stand and watch the actual launch consoles, light up and do their thing, as they launch the historic Apollo 8 mission. The kids loved the sights and sounds, flashing lights and voices, as the countdown commenced and the rocket was launched. I could not find the Apollo 8 firing room online, but to get an idea of what I am talking about, check out the shuttle launch firing room.

At this point, some of the kids were getting was after 9pm, and we still had some engineering activities and a snack to do before lights out. I have to tell you, when they opened the doors and we walked out into the hall that contained all 363 feet of the Saturn V rocket, everyone immediately came out of their stupor! The sight was just amazing! The size of the rocket humbled even the adults! We walked along its length...actually we walked underneath this gargantuan, and were able to see inside each stage of the rocket, as they had them separated just enough to give a peek.

After we settled a bit and saw a few of the exhibits in the hall, the kids were broken up into teams and were given an engineering challenge. Some of the kids were to build a moon rover with a styrofoam tray, plastic wheels, tape, straws and a ballon. Others were to build a tower that could withstand a small lunar quake using pipe cleaners, paper, tape and a tray. The rover that went the farthest was the winner, and the tower that was the tallest (and didn't fall over during the simulated quake) won. After a small snack of cookies and water, we grabbed our gear, and prepped for our sleepover.

They had us park our mats (I recommend bringing an air mattress; plenty of outlets in the floor to use or bring a battery operated pump), and we settled down for the night. We were now locked in for the night. We did have a few smokers in our group, and they had to summon up a little willpower, as we could not go outside til much later in the morning, when the building was officially opened. No "late evening" or "before breakfast" smoke was available. Keep this in mind if you choose to do an overnighter.

I actually slept like a baby....well, when my older son wasn't waking me up to go the bathroom (the kids had to wake chaperones if they had to go). Sleeping was pretty comfortable and not too many folks did any snoring, at least that I could tell. Most of us were pretty exhausted and probably wouldn't have heard a thing anyway. After a nice continental breakfast of cereal, danishes and fruit, we headed to the Lunar Theater where prizes were handed out. Not only were the winners of the engineering experiment awarded but also the leader of each group was recognized with goodies and autographed photos. Even random door prizes were handed out, and many came away happy. Also in the theater, a nice multi-media experience with video, lunar model, life-size astronaut, and the moon's surface, gave us a close-up view of the landings and goings on of the lunar missions. It can best be described as a collection of bloopers and mishaps and lighter moments, as the astronauts went about their moon landings.

We were then given a shortenend bus tour of the complex and dropped back off at the visitor center. We were lucky to actually see Space Shuttle Endeavour on the launchpad, as it waited for its August 7th lift-off. We were taken back to our parking area, dropped off our gear, and were released back into the Kennedy Space Center. We were now on our own to explore.

Of course, our first stop was the brand-new Shuttle Launch Experience to experience the sights, sounds and feel of an actual shuttle launch. Before you actually get into the simulator, you are given a multi-media presentation, done by Astronaut Charles Bolden with the help of some cartoon depictions, showing what happens during a launch. The presentation is also accompanied by lights, rumbling and smoke (which is actually a large fog machine). As I looked around, some of the folks thought they were already in the simulator by the looks on their faces! After Bolden finished his talk, we proceeded through some bay doors and reported to the actual simulator. Once inside and the doors were closed, we were strapped in and ready to launch. For those who chicken out before getting into the simulator (you are given a chance of that), there is a room off to the side that contains video feeds of the inside of the simulator, as well as what it looks like as the simulator bumps and turns from an outside view. So, you can still see what you are missing!

Let me tell you right now, that this simulator is nothing like some of the "flying" simulators that you've experienced. The only queasy feeling you may get is when the shuttle simulates weightlessness, after the last rocket fires off. The bigger concern is all the shaking and going vertical and getting pressed against your seatback that you experience. The simulator does a pretty good job of simulating the G-forces by tilting back and like I said earlier, the shaking is enough to really rattle your brain and make your neck and head ache. You can cut down on some of the shaking by slightly raising your head forward, off the headrest. Other than that, hang on and enjoy the ride! My boys went on the ride multiple times and enjoyed every second!

We rounded out the day with visiting the following attractions:

We ran out of time, but I also recommend you stop by the Astronaut Hall of Fame. This is also included in your ticket price and has lots of exhibits and interactive displays that the kids should get a kick out of. As always, if you want to save some money, you can bring your own lunch, drinks and snacks, but they must be in a soft-sided cooler. Security is very strict and you go through metal detectors and have your bag searched upon entry. Also, if you want to save money in the gift shops, bring obligatory space-themed toys purchased before-hand. The gift shops are expensive. Click on the Space Shop to see what's available and try to beat the prices before you go! I've actually found some of this stuff on good ole eBay. To fully enjoy the Kennedy Space Center, I also recommend that you do a two day visit, which is included in your ticket price. One day is just not enough to see and experience everything!

Please share your ideas here! I'd love to hear them!

See this article and others like it at Travelminx.

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Anonymous Trek Hound said...

Great write up of what there is to see and do there. I actually just wrote a post on for Wise Bread on How to Save Money at the Kennedy Space center. It features money-saving tips on pet care, souvenirs, tickets and more. If you or your readers would be interested in taking a peek, here's the link:

My husband is retired military, so it's great to connect with another military wife online.

January 27, 2010 at 7:56 PM  

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