KSC is perhaps one of the coolest places I’ve been to. They’ve really made some awesome improvements to it in the last few years, but the best reason to go is from 40 years ago.
On the bus tour, you stop at an Apollo/Saturn V exhibit. After a brief history of the trials and tribulations faced by NASA as they tried to figure out how to get to the moon, you’re ushered into a gallery behind the original launch control room and experience a re-enactment of the countdown and launch of Apollo VIII. This was not the first mission to land on the moon, but it was the first mission to orbit the moon and get a good close-up look of our ultimate destination.
We were there today and, despite the fact that this is the 4th or 5th time I’ve seen this “show”, it never fails to bring a lump to my throat, a tear to my eye, and a pitter-patter to my heartbeat. There is no way that a video can adequately convey the nearly heartstopping moment when the overwhelming sound of a Saturn V begins to rock the launch control room. And I do mean rock – the whole place shakes and the windows rattle until you’re certain they’re only moments away from complete failure. Even the rosy glow of the rocket as it lifts off is simulated.
After the show, you have a few moments to get a close look at the control panels. Everything in the room is original. It’s hard to remember for those of us old enough (and would seem completely alien to the rest) that all the equipment used to first send our men into space was analog: rotary dial phones, plain steel flip switches, status lights with actual bulbs in them. LED bulbs didn’t come into common use until that same year! Yet, despite all this, we managed to cobble together an extremely sophisticated launch and landing vehicle and escape earth’s gravity entirely.
If you ever find yourself within reasonable driving distance of KSC, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. And be sure to block out time for the bus tour!