There are historical museums that span centuries and decades of human civilization. The Kennedy Space Centre, conversely, is a museum that celebrates the more recent achievement of science, innovation, and the power of human collaboration and engineering.
We began our visit in the Atlantis building, not expecting it to be more than a collection of exhibits we would explore and walk about. Guarding the entrance stood an Atlantis replica, a massive structure towering above us as it stood poised ready for lift-off.
As we walked through the entrance of the building, we snaked through a hall of posters, panels and inspirational quotes. It was hard not to stare at them, read them, and drink the messages in, leaving us intoxicated with success, motivation and achievement.
At the end of a winding, large hallway stood a lineup to a set of doors. A countdown display was in full view, of what, we did not know.
Upon entry we were treated to a well-sized room with a large display. For the next few minutes a small documentary video played capturing the 12-year design and build process for the Atlantis spacecraft. The video itself was a stirring revelation as it charted the incredibly journey filled with trials, tribulation, heartbreak, and finally, triumph. The video was well paced, helped build on the hallway messaging we had just come from, and ended with a final clip of the Atlantis spacecraft in an angled still photo. What came next was truly remarkable piece of theatre: the video that illuminated on the display suddenly became translucent, unveiling the actual Atlantis spacecraft hanging from a huge 3-story warehouse beyond, in the exact same position as the ending video clip.
A large garage door then opened, unveiling the craft in full; it was an impressive display, hung from the rafters in a position ideal for viewing. Despite its size, I wondered wistfully how anyone could travel in a craft that size without feeling incredibly claustrophobic.
Although Atlantis stole the show in spectacular fashion, the neighbouring exhibits complemented it well. Mock replica stations were everywhere, allowing kids to get fully engaged in the experience. There were little gaming simulations, an enormous slide that was steep enough to give even the bravest a second look, a launch ride simulation, a small climbing playground that modelled the international space station, and scores of other venues designed to capture the hearts and imagination of kids for all ages.
There was a beautiful memorial section for the Challenger 1985 disaster, a myriad of smaller exhibits that served as eye-popping education, and of course, a tribute to other engineering marvels such as the Canada Arm and Hubble telescope.
The Atlantis exhibit was simply an incredible experience; it was beautifully introduced in a short film that captivated us from the beginning, and finished with a string of exhibits that was truly inspiring to see.
Next up was lunch, and thereafter, a much anticipated bus tour that would take us to the actual launch sites of current and future launches…