“To sit back and let fate play its hand out and never influence it is not the way man was meant to operate.”
The passing of the iconic John Glenn – astronaut, Senator, and American hero – served as a reminder to us all of who and what’s truly admirable in life. Mind numbing apps, mediocre professional athletes who make headlines for all the wrong reasons, C-list television personalities famous for reasons no one really knows . . . these are the kinds of people who have been influencing our children (and let’s face it- many adults as well). But we’re in a position to change all that, to instill the values we hold dear.
Inspiration can be thrilling! There’s no better place to experience that than a visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida with the new Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® presented by Boeing. This multimedia collection of interactive exhibits includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, Space Shuttle Atlantis®, Shuttle Launch Experience®, IMAX® A Beautiful Planet 3D and Journey To Space 3D films, Astronaut Encounter, Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted, Science on a Sphere®, Rocket Garden, Cosmic Quest, and much more. These exciting parts of the complex lead to the stunning rotunda celebrating our country’s fearless space explorers.
Located next to the Rocket Garden, the new exhibit begins with a 360 degree movie featuring clips of NASA, the lives of astronauts, and some memorabilia. Listening to the journeys that were made, watching the work that was done, hearing how humble these brave men and women are about the entire thing was both moving and humbling. As you move through the Heroes and Legends, you head into large area that hangs a rocket overhead, and houses space shuttles as well as personal items of the astronauts . Characteristics that one would require to journey into space title each display, such as “Selfless”, “Inspired”, “Courageous”, with items that an astronaut felt inspirational to the person they became or an important representation of how they became the man or woman that they did. Many chose to include toys, comic books, and scouting or sports memorabilia in their representative items, reminding us that what we do as children (and what we expose our children to) really does mold who they become.
You can also find the original setup and belongings of the Mercury Mission Control room, and watch a 4-D movie titled “Through the Eyes of a Hero”, which depicts the lives, excitement, setbacks and wins of the space program as well as the 93 astronauts who have so far been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
When you finish viewing, head through the doors to the Astronaut Hall of Fame and be greeted by Alan Shepherd (in statue form) to meet the inductees. Created by the Mercury Seven Astronauts (the same who adorn the outside wall of the building) as a place to honor American Astronauts, you can learn about their lives with displays and interactive touch screens.
With all the ugliness that has surrounded recent months, spending time at the Kennedy Space Center’s Heroes and Legends was almost healing, a balm to the soul. Looking to the stars brought me back to Earth. It was a gentle reminder of a proud history, of great minds and brave souls working together to achieve tremendous things. While no one would call me an overly emotional person for the most part, I have to admit that I found myself misty-eyed more then once. What’s next for NASA? Well, as they will tell you- they will keep exploring.
As inspiring as the site is – and make no mistake, this is a powerfully enriching destination to visit – its behind the scenes projects are impressive, too. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) helps university students pursue careers in math, science, and technology. The U.S. Space Camp incorporates the Hall of Fame in its program. You and your family can have lunch with an astronaut should you so choose, and ask questions about life in space or NASA. It’s not only fun, but a wonderful experience for anyone, no matter how old or young. Photos are available with the astronaut afterward, as well. In case you were wondering- of course they have Tang.
Only 45 minutes from Orlando, Fla., Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. with closing times varying by season. Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers annual passes starting at $75 + tax for adults and $60 + tax for children ages 3-11. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.