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Kennedy Space Center – Launch Status Center

Rating: * * * *
Type: Live briefings and educational displays
Time: Briefings last about 20 minutes
Kelly says: The best thing at the Visitor Complex

The modest looking, almost anonymous, white geodesic dome near the Explorer mock-up in Shuttle Plaza houses what is, in my opinion, the best thing at the Visitor Complex.

There are models and displays here of the retrievable solid rocket boosters and their motors, a manned maneuvering unit, even an outer-space soft drink dispenser. Perhaps the most fascinating artifact is an actual solid rocket booster nose cone from the 66th shuttle mission; usually these sink to the bottom of the ocean and are replaced, but this one remained afloat long enough to be retrieved.

The main attractions here, however, are the live briefings that occur every hour on the hour from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Held in front of a set of simulated mission control panels like those used in astronaut training, they feature a live “communicator” and live shots from remote video cameras strategically stationed around the working heart of the Space Center, including the Vehicle Assembly Building and the launch pad itself.

No matter when you visit, there will always be something going on at the Space Center and this is your opportunity to get the inside scoop. Obviously, the most interesting time to come here is in the days and hours before a launch and during an actual mission, when you’ll get to see the live video feed from the shuttle itself. However, a visit is worthwhile no matter where they are in the launch cycle. The communicators are veritable encyclopedias of information about the space program, and I would urge you not to be shy about asking questions once the formal briefing is over.

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