Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center: ‘That’s One Big Spaceship!’

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"That's one big spaceship!" Overheard during the Atlantis Rollout at Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

"That's one big spaceship!" Overheard during the Atlantis Rollout at Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

You’ve probably figured out by now I have a slight space exploration addiction. I was there for the final space shuttle Atlantis launch last July and thanks to Eileen Ludwig of Freelance Tourist, I saw Atlantis make its final landing. Friday, Nov. 2, space shuttle Atlantis made one last journey to its final home at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and I was there to wish her well.

Astronaut Jon McBride (second from left) Greets STS-135 Crew During the Atlantis Rollout at Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

Astronaut Jon McBride (second from left) Greets STS-135 Crew During the Atlantis Rollout at Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

Unlike several friends, I didn’t have special access and purchased a package through the KSC Visitor Complex which allowed me to hear astronaut space shuttle astronaut Jon McBride and crew from the STS-135 mission; the final space shuttle mission (Chris Ferguson, Commander; Doug Hurley, Pilot; Sandy Magnus, Mission Specialist 1; and Rex Walheim, Mission Specialist 2); NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Told Attendees to "Dream Big."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Told Attendees to "Dream Big."

Although I caught the end of it, the conversation between Bolden and Cabana was inspiring.

“Dream big,” Bolden told attendees, encouraging them to never give up in pursuing their dreams.

What's a Lt. Governor Wear on Her Feet? Fun, Red Shoes.

What's a Lt. Governor Wear on Her Feet? Fun, Red Shoes.

Florida’s Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll also gave remarks (check out her fun shoes!) as well as other NASA personnel and representatives from the private sector, who are continuing the legacy of U.S. human space travel. A host of displays educated visitors about the present state and future outlook of space exploration.

The Honorable Jennifer Carroll, Lieutenant Governor, State of Florida

The Honorable Jennifer Carroll, Lieutenant Governor, State of Florida

“That’s One Big Spaceship!”
Of course, the highlight of the afternoon was seeing space shuttle Atlantis slowly make its way to the new, 90,000-square-foot interactive exhibit at the KSC Visitor Complex. The space shuttle program’s 30-year history will be told in this new facility, set to open in summer 2013.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Making Her Final Journey, Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

Space Shuttle Atlantis Making Her Final Journey, Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

Honestly, I though there would be more fanfare when the shuttle rolled out but I suppose the medley of patriotic music piped into the air meant something was happening. The way Atlantis was mounted on the trailer made it look as though it was coasting above the roadway. Security instructed everyone to stand back away from the road because of the shuttle’s wingspan. Of course, once the shuttle was in view, some people ran into the road for a better photographic shot.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Strikes a Pose, Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

Space Shuttle Atlantis Strikes a Pose, Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

After it came down the straightaway, it parked so visitors could get pretty close for those Facebook bragging rights photos.

“That’s one big spaceship!” I overheard a little boy yell. Too cute.

Munching on Conch Fritters Next to the Rocket Garden at KSC's New Cafe

Munching on Conch Fritters Next to the Rocket Garden at KSC's New Cafe

Lunch at the Rocket Garden Cafe
My stomach is still recovering from the Brazil trip meaning I’ve been eating pretty bland food but when I visited the new Rocket Garden Cafe in the KSC complex, I needed to sample something. That something was a little spicy but oh, so good. If cooked in too hot of an oil, conch fritters can turn out dark and crispy on the outside but doughy inside. The ones I enjoyed at the Rocket Garden Cafe were cooked to perfection and served with cocktail sauce, although I would have preferred a mustard-based sauce.

These conch fritters ($7.50) were nothing like the rubber hotdogs we consumed for nourishment during our 1981 visit. Other menu items include: Mahi Mahi Ceviche ($12.50), Vegetarian Frittata ($9.50) and Mediterranean Flat Bread Pizza ($12.50). Of course, at the other eateries, the standard chicken strips, hotdogs and fries are served.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin at the Astronaut Autograph and Memorabilia Show, Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin at the Astronaut Autograph and Memorabilia Show, Kennedy Space Center, Nov. 2, 2012

Who’s Who of U.S. Space Exploration

And to top off the day was the Astronaut Autograph and Memorabilia Show, a who’s who of U.S. space exploration with more than 40 astronauts and others who have made significant impact on the space program. I’m really a shy person so I didn’t speak to anyone, although I was tempted to ask Buzz Aldrin who he thought would win Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars…

Am I counting down for summer 2013? You betcha!

About Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Located less than an hour’s drive east of Orlando in Brevard County, the Kennedy Space Center is a must-see attraction when visiting Florida. (The drive is about three-and-a-half hours from my home in North Port.) It opens daily at 9 a.m. (closed December 25) and certain launch days. Admission includes IMAX® space films, all exhibits and shows, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. Admission tickets include a second day free for use at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame if used within seven days.

Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia. Visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com or call 877-313-2610 for additional information.

Related articles:

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

24 Hours: No Sleep, 400 Miles, Gallons of Caffeine, Business Luncheon and the Final Space Shuttle Landing Ever

Visiting Kennedy Space Center in a Post-Space Shuttle World

Tips for Planning a Day Trip to Kennedy Space Center

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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