Kennedy Space Centre: launch of Atlantis
The Kennedy Space Centre’s new $100 million exhibition that houses the space shuttle Atlantis is truly breathtaking. First flown in 1985, the spacecraft was instrumental in developing our understanding of the cosmos. Over its thirty year career it made over thirty successful space flight missions, helped build the International Space Centre and Hubble Telescope and orbited the world almost 5,000 times. Given this epic record of achievement, the gurus at NASA thought it only right to give the Atlantis space shuttle a very special retirement home.
A decade’s worth of planning went into the Atlantis exhibition centre, and it shows: the huge 90,000 sq ft resting place suspends the awesome spaceship high above so visitors can gaze at it from every angle. And when you’ve captured the magnificent craft there’s more than 60 interactive exhibitions that recreate life in space.
This exhibition works hard to give visitors a true experience of life as an astronaut. First stop should be the multimedia room where you’ll get an enlightening overview on the history of the space shuttle in a cool IMAX theatre. Next head to one of the simulators where you can see what it’s like to blast off into the atmosphere.
Once you’ve felt the power of a rocket launch it’s time to try out life in space. ‘Lunch with an Astronaut’ is a special daily event that is exactly as the title describes: over a spread of delicious food, true space pioneers from the NASA astronaut programme will answer any questions you have on what it’s like to be in zero gravity. Listen out for the lavatory question which some brave audience member always seems to ask. Then you can take your own space adventure by crawling through the replica space station which floats on the top floor of the exhibition.
Aside from Atlantis, you’ll find the The Kennedy Space Center has a smorgasbord of activities for families; from the crazy-coloured Angry Birds gaming area, to the history making Saturn V Center where you can see the rocket that took man to the moon.
How to get there: 14 nights staying at the nearby Four Points Sheraton Cocoa Beach for two adults and two children, including return flights to Orlando and car hire; from £2,349. To book visit Virgin Holidays or call 0844 557 4321.
Travel time: Flying from London to Orlando takes around 9 hours and the hotel is 45 minutes by car.
Accommodation: Four Points Sheraton Cocoa Beach is a true sample of Floridian hospitality. With an in-house Starbucks, surf shop and shark-themed restaurant, and you’re bound to spend lots of time browsing around the complex. That is when you’re not at Cocoa Beach; the horizon-long strip of soft pale sand that’s just 10 minutes walk away.
Top tip: Budget some dollars to spend in the extra special NASA gift shop where they sell everything astronaut-related, even space ice cream.
More info: Tickets for Kennedy Space Center cost from £35 per adult and £29 per child. Lunch with an astronaut can be very popular so make sure you book on arrival or book here in advance. The local Space Coast tourist board is also useful for up-to-date information on the area.