First, a quiet settles over the crowd. Thousands wait, hushed, until finally the words ring out over the loud speaker: “We are GO for launch.” Voices join in unison for the final countdown, and a burst of flame appears on the horizon as rocket engines ignite. A few seconds later, the thunderous noise of lift off cuts through the air, and a tremor runs through the ground. The rocket begins to rise in the sky, faster and faster until it disappears beyond sight, leaving behind an arc of smoke and light. High-fives, hugs and tears abound.
Watching a rocket launch is an awe-inspiring, unforgettable experience. It is spectacle, and it is history. And there is no better place to experience one than at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex℠ in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Only at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex can guests purchase a front row seat to historic rocket launches at one of four locations within mere miles of the launch pads and hear exclusive live commentary and minute-by-minute updates from space experts.
From the viewing platforms of the four-story LC-39 Observation Gantry, watch rockets take off from the same launch pad that launched the Apollo and space shuttle missions while sizing up the 525-foot-tall Vehicle Assembly Building, where the center puts together its largest rockets. From the lawn of the NASA Causeway, enjoy an up-close view of the launch pads across Indian River, or watch from the comfort of the Apollo/Saturn V Center or main vistor complex. Whatever the location, the anticipation is palpable as the countdown reaches 3…2…1.
“We offer a front row seat for guests to see, hear and feel the sensations of a rocket launch, a must-see, must-do experience,” says Therrin Protze, chief operating officer, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “With an on-going schedule of rocket launches, there are plenty of opportunities for guests to witness history in the making, whether it’s a resupply mission to the International Space Station or a vital weather satellite being launched into orbit.”
On January 20, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V SBIRS GEO 3 launch kicked off the 2017 schedule from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This year, up to 20 launches could take off from Florida’s Space Coast. Check for upcoming launches in the Rocket Launch/Events section of KennedySpaceCenter.com and begin planning your trip to one of four remarkable viewing locations:
LC-39 Observation Gantry
Located at the historic Launch Complex 39 where Apollo astronauts launched to the moon, the LC-39 Observation Gantry is the closest viewing area to the launch pads of Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Shaded viewing from the gantry and outdoor bleacher seating make this the premium launch viewing area. Situated just two to five and a half miles from launch pads, visitors will feel the air rumble! Live commentary provides insights into what's happening across the water, and refreshments, indoor restrooms and souvenirs shops are readily available.
Apollo/Saturn V Center
This prime viewing location is dedicated to celebrating the Apollo program. The Apollo/Saturn V Center offers a close-up look at the world’s largest rocket, Saturn V, as well as theaters, displays of early space suit prototypes and an opportunity to touch a real moon rock. Outdoor bleacher seating offers views of launch pads five to eight miles away, and live commentary reports on the action. Other amenities include dining and shopping venues and indoor restrooms.
Connecting Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the NASA Causeway offers an expansive view of launch pads just three to five miles away across the Indian River. Watch from the outdoor bleachers or bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket. Similar to the other locations, experts will narrate the activity. Outdoor restrooms and refreshments are available on location.
Main Visitor Complex
Included with daily admission, this viewing area is located next to Space Shuttle Atlantis®. Visitors view rockets shoot through the sky once they clear the tree line from launch locations located seven miles away. Listen to the launch commentary, see the rocket trails and take time to explore the complex's expansive offerings.