I Met a Rocket Man at Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

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A Statue of Alan Sheppard, the First American in Space, Welcomes Visitors into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

A Statue of Alan Sheppard, the First American in Space, Welcomes Visitors into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

“One of my heroes was John Glenn. My mother let me play hooky from school to watch his mission. And the drama and the class with which he performed that mission was really neat,“ rocket man Jerry L. Ross told me when I asked the hero who his hero was.

Last November, my space geekiness led me Florida’s Space Coast and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for a media event celebrating the opening of  Heroes and Legends and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame presented by Boeing. It also gave me an opportunity to speak with Jerry L. Ross, an astronaut who was the first (and only) person to launch into space SEVEN times, making him a true rocket man. He was with the space shuttle program from beginning to end and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2014.

Astronaut Hall of Fame Member Jerry Ross - Press event for Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 10, 2016.

Astronaut Hall of Fame Member Jerry Ross – Press event for Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 10, 2016.

What Does a Retired Astronaut Do?
“I wrote three books in the first three years after retired and my wife and I are really enjoying traveling around the world, around the country. One of my goals was to visit every major league baseball park in the country and I have one left to go,” he told me when I asked what he is enjoying during his retirement.

Which one stadium hasn’t he visited yet?

The Atlanta Braves’ stadium.

“I’ll wait until they have a new park and I’ll show up,” he said.

A Role Model
In his Indiana hometown of Crown Point, the elementary school is named for him. At least once every three years he visits the school to speak with every student. Interestingly, he told me his autobiography (Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer) and the children’s version (Becoming a Spacewalker: My Journey to the Stars) are geared toward kids.

What’s very interesting and a testament to Becoming a Spacewalker is that it has been given to every fourth grade teacher in Indiana and lesson plans for teachers are available on his website www.jerrylross.com.

When meeting with children, he says he tries “to encourage them to figure out what their God-given talents are, what their likes and dislikes are and how they might use those in their adult life and career. And then to encourage them to set goals for themselves, to study hard, work hard and not to give up too easily in the pursuit of those goals.”

Spiffing Up Plaques at U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame -Debut of Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Nov. 10, 2016.

Spiffing Up Plaques at U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame -Debut of Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Nov. 10, 2016.

How An Astronaut Handles Adversity
“I certainly had my share of…frustrations,” he told me when I asked if he had obstacles in achieving his goals and what he tells kids, “I didn’t get selected for test pilot school the first time I applied. I didn’t get selected to astronaut office the first time I applied.

“You just have to work harder the next time, rededicate yourself to it and maybe try a slightly different approach and not give up. Because if things have been so important for you so long, they should remain such and you should not get so frustrated that you quit.”

The Exterior of the Heroes and Legends and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame has a Sculpture of the Mercury 7 Astronauts Who Were NASA's First Astronauts.

The Exterior of the Heroes and Legends and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame has a Sculpture of the Mercury 7 Astronauts Who Were NASA’s First Astronauts.

Legends & Heroes and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Presented by Boeing
Ross was at KSCVC with fellow U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame member Karol “Bo” Bobko celebrating the opening of Legends and Heroes and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Presented by Boeing. Now, you may think every astronaut is included but I learned while speaking with hall of famers, there is an actual process which includes astronauts nominating someone then voting on inductees.  As of May 2017, there are 95 astronauts in the hall of fame.

Technically, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame is not new. It was previously located down the road from the primary attractions at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex but a gorgeous new building was erected and the hall of fame has been relocated and paired with the new Legends & Heroes exhibit. The hall of fame’s new location just inside the entrance gates of KSCVC makes it more accessible for people to celebrate America’s space explorers easier.

This new attraction adds an emotional background and context for space exploration. It complements other features at KSCVC and adds the human element with the What is a Hero? brief film in the 360-degree discovery bay. (Keep a tissue handy.) Next is the 3-D Through the Eyes of a Hero film in which you journey through the mind and eyes of NASA’s first heroes and legends. This humanizes the space exploration industry by giving you the perspective of what some astronauts gone through.

This Is What Happens During a Press Event - Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 10, 2016.

This Is What Happens During a Press Event – Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 10, 2016.

The A Hero Is… exhibit highlights nine attributes astronauts have with each having its own module where you can see artifacts tied to the space program and hear stories from these space explorers. Some of the attributes include, courageous, tenacious, passionate and selfless. Also included is the Mercury Mission Control room with original consoles. Watch astronaut Eugene Cernan perform a spacewalk and John Glenn’s landing of Friendship 7 on the moon.

Walking into the final exhibit, a grand sculpture called “The Spirit of Space” welcomes visitors and features a patriotic rocket man, Alan B. Shepard Jr., the first American in space. This is the entry into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame where glass plaques each with an etched portrait of hall of fame members line the walls and an interactive console allows visitors to look up each inductee and view their accomplishments. There’s also a selfie option to pull up your favorite astronaut and snap a photo with them.

That's Me with John Glenn! Okay, an Image of John Glenn. Press event for Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 10, 2016

That’s Me with John Glenn! Okay, an Image of John Glenn. Press event for Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Nov. 10, 2016

The Heroes and Legends and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame presented by Boeing is a reminder that while there are heroes who have done extraordinary things and earned national and international accolades, there are heroes around us in our everyday life. If you haven’t, take time to let those heroes know how much you appreciate them.

Courage and Principles are Some of the Attributes Astronauts Must Have. Press Event for Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Nov. 10, 2016

Courage and Principles are Some of the Attributes Astronauts Must Have. Press Event for Heroes and Legends at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Nov. 10, 2016

View additional images on my Flickr account.

You may be interested in:

Blasting Off to Mars and Other Adventures at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Final Mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Smelly, Sticky and Sunburn: Seeing the Final Space Shuttle Launch

Ready to visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex? Plan your visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support my traveling habit, this blog and my special needs dog.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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